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NCIS: Los Angeles - Tidings We Bring - Review: "Christmas Cheer"

Holiday cheer abounded on “Tidings We Bring,” the Christmas episode of “NCIS: Los Angeles.” The team is in the Christmas spirit, trading gifts with each other and celebrating their annual holiday party (where things are a lot more cordial between them than they appear at first glance). But the team also has real work to do. After a Navy Lieutenant Commander is kidnapped while Christmas shopping, the NCIS team digs into the case. They determine the woman’s journalist boyfriend is really the target and the Navy Lieutenant Commander is being used as bait. In the end NCIS solves the case and rescues the couple.

I always enjoy character musical chairs, and we once again saw a little partner shake-up. This week Sam partners with Anna while Callen works the case with Deeks. Though it was unclear to me why Callen didn’t want to work with Anna, the switch-off was fun. It brought new energy to the mix. Kensi’s struggles to get back to work set the stage for an entertaining catfight, even if it was only in her imagination. And Nell and Eric were especially cute as they prepared for the Dickens fair. This episode took advantage of holiday joy and festive cheer. There may not have been a lot to the episode, but it was fun. It was a nice year-ender to what’s been a great season so far. (On a side note, this is sadly my last episode to review. Please see my personal note at the end of this article.)

Sam, Callen and Anna

After a history of skepticism about Anna, Sam seems to embrace her in this episode. In fact, he is almost spurring on Callen and his relationship with Anna. When Anna brings homemade food to the team, Sam, not too subtly, points out to Callen that she cooks. He is singing Anna’s praises right in front of her, egging on his friend. And then he tries pushing Callen and Anna together on the case. After asking for her help, Sam volunteers to go with Deeks. But Callen doesn’t bite. He volunteers to go with Deeks himself – and he wins. So did Callen not want to work with Anna for some reason?

I thought this scene would be explained later but it never was. It appeared to me that Callen was avoiding Anna for some reason. But we never really found out why. And he seemed to be fine with her throughout the rest of the episode. So I don’t know what that scene was all about. Later in the car, there was a moment between Sam and Anna where at first I thought Sam was implying Anna or Callen needed to be honest with one another if the other wasn’t “doing great.” But on subsequent watching, I think Sam was talking about Anna’s relationship with Arkady, and how she needed to talk to him about what wasn’t working. If that’s the case, like I suspect, I still don’t understand why Callen didn’t want to work with Anna. Or was he avoiding Sam? I’m still unclear.

Regardless, Sam warms up to Anna in a way he never did before. The two play off each other as they visit the journalist’s work, threatening the boss. And when Anna goes out on her own to attack the bad guys, Sam backs her up. The two worked well together. But they also made a more personal connection. Anna confides in Sam that her ATF employment has hit a speed bump after Arkady insulted the investigator, halting her background check. And Sam confides in Anna it’s his last Christmas with his daughter at home and he wants to make it special. He also tells Anna he is unsuccessfully trying to buy Hamilton tickets for his wife for Christmas. Amazingly, Anna comes through in a big way, with tickets from Arkady. (He apparently has connections.) Sam won’t soon forget that. If Anna is meant for Callen, it’s a good thing his partner is finally warming up to her.

Whatever issues or nervousness or non-committal fears Callen may have with Anna, he steps up in the end and invites her to Christmas dinner with him and his dad. It looks like Callen will have a fun and different holiday this year. And Sam and Callen reunite once again at the Christmas party where Callen laughs that Sam’s little plan backfired. (Again, I wasn’t quite clear what his plan was or how it backfired.) But the two easily fall into their teasing banter as Sam jokingly admits working on a case isn’t the same without Callen’s sarcasm, backseat driving, needling and fast food smell in the car.

Callen and Deeks

I always enjoy Callen and Deeks together because they are just so different. This time Deeks tells Callen all about his obsession with Christmas lights and decorating. But minimalist Callen doesn’t understand it. For Deeks, it goes back to his childhood. He recalls how his mom always made sure the holidays were a constant in the midst of family chaos. Deeks tries to convince Callen of the importance of holiday decorations. But instead, Callen influences Deeks. He suggests Deeks and Kensi take a tropical vacation instead of putting up lights. Deeks likes that idea. As for Callen, he says he spent so much time in other people’s homes growing up, he is just excited to be at his own home for the holidays.

Despite their differences, these two appreciate each other. That’s obvious when Deeks gives Callen a string of Christmas lights at the party. Noting that he and Kensi have time to decorate in the future, he tells Callen that G has a lot of years to make up for, so he might as well use the lights. This was a sweet, sincere moment.


We saw barely any interaction between Kensi and Deeks in this episode but we did see Kensi working hard to get back to her job. She enlists Nell’s help running an obstacle course before anyone else is at work. Upset that she keeps making mistakes, Kensi gets frustrated. But Nell was cute as she encouraged her friend. Nell gives Kensi a present – a Joan of Arc figure, a symbol of never giving up. Nell tells Kensi Joan of Arc became a great military leader all because she believed in herself. This was an extremely thoughtful gift and sweet scene between the ladies.

Later Eric sees Kensi at work and also gives her a thoughtful gift – a scarf embedded with Kevlar filaments around the edges, to be used as a strangling weapon if necessary. I thought this present was hilarious! And of course Kensi loves it. Eric hesitantly admits Hetty helped him. (He was funny how he wanted to take all the credit but couldn’t.) Just like Nell, he encourages Kensi and tells her it’s great to have her back. Kensi is definitely missed.

But she clearly still feels worried about returning to work. This becomes apparent at the party, as Kensi imagines a catfight with Anna. It may all be fake, in Kensi’s imagination, but something is spurring the daydream. Deep down she’s insecure about her ability to return to work. So when Kensi sees Anna filling in for her, she gets jealous. She feels threatened. She feels like Anna is replacing her on her own team.

This scene was a lot of fun, especially watching it for the first time, not knowing it was fake. It felt quite real as the rest of the team tried to change the subject or steer Kensi away from confrontation. But she wasn’t backing down. I enjoyed her confrontational dialogue, with Anna telling Kensi she’s sorry Kensi has had trouble adjusting, and Kensi replying, “How would you like me to adjust your pretty little head?” I couldn’t believe Kensi’s aggression. But yet I kind of could. Kensi doesn’t want to think she can be replaced. Especially when she’s nervous about working her way back to the job. And as the only female field agent on the team, it must be hard to see another woman filling in for her. Of course, I don’t think she really has anything to worry about. But that doesn’t stop her from imagining a brawl in her mind, pushing and fighting Anna. It was hilarious that Nell even jumped in on the action, with Kensi accidentally smacking her. This was a clever scene to throw fans a surprise without any real drama. But the imagined scene made a clear point: Kensi is worried about being ready to return to work, and she fears being replaced. Hopefully she can conquer those fears and insecurities.

Eric and Nell

I thought Eric and Nell were especially cute in this episode. The show continues to play with the nature of their relationship. What are they exactly to each other? That’s hard to answer. But whatever they are, they’re a lot of fun. I loved hearing Eric rehearse for the Dickens fair in his English accent. When Nell informs him she got into a women in technology mentorship program that falls on the same weekend as the fair, Eric supports her. He insists she goes, but he is hurt. He didn’t know she’d applied to that program and feels like they are drifting apart. He also didn’t know Joan of Arc was Nell’s hero. “I guess there’s still a lot we don’t know about each other,” he sullenly tells her. But Nell lets him know that’s okay. “People who’ve been married 50 years are still finding out new things about each other,” she insists. “We’ll be okay, my little sugarplum.” I found it interesting that she compared their relationship to a married couple. And yet the comment sounded so natural. It wasn’t some big revelation of how they felt. It was a simple comparison to let Eric know learning new things about each other was normal and good.

Later the two use their own methods to stop the bad guys from escaping out of the car. Nell causes an accident while Eric threatens fire with a flare. These two have unique methods in the field. But it worked. I especially enjoyed Eric threatening the guys in Spanish. He seemed like such a bad-ass!

Nell showed a knack for thoughtful gifts in this episode. I don’t know how she had time to go buy Eric the perfect gift after their earlier conversation, but she suddenly brings him a pendulum clock. She points out that when you hang two pendulums, they swing together – just like the two of them. Though they have things they don’t know about each other, when they get together they swing together. As evidence, they put on their Dickens hats and effortlessly fall into their Dickens/Eliza Doolittle voices. These two understand one another implicitly.

Other Thoughts

- It was interesting to hear Callen talk with Hetty about having 30 days left to find the mole. Hetty doesn’t seem worried about the deadline. She tells Callen sometimes you make the most of your time when you have the least to spare. Though it’s Hetty’s head on the line, Callen sweetly reassures her they’re all in this together.

- It was amusing to see the store owner think she’d help Sam shopping. What a great line when she asked what he thought of dad hats, and he responded, “Wouldn’t fit!”

- I loved how Eric started getting personal about his disappointments with Nell when Hetty told him to get her up to speed. I’m glad he trusts Hetty like a friend!

- It was funny how Deeks didn’t appreciate Anna helping him knock out a bad guy. He wanted to prove he could do it all himself, even though she really did help him out.

***On a personal note, I want to thank everyone for taking time to read my “NCIS: Los Angeles” reviews. I have loved writing them and hearing what you thought about each of the episodes. “NCIS: Los Angeles” fans are truly the best! Sadly, this is my last review/article for SpoilerTV. I just started a new job in public relations, and I no longer have time to continue my reviews. But I will keep watching the show as a fan and interacting with you guys when I can. Thank you all for making my time at SpoilerTV so special. It has been such a joy for me to read your comments (even when I haven’t had time to respond) and be part of this community! I have loved seeing your enthusiasm for the show and your desires for our favorite characters. I can’t thank you all enough for your encouragement, your insightful comments week after week, your love for the show, and your kind words about my reviews! It’s wonderful to be a part of such a supportive fan community - and you guys are the ones that made it that way! I wish you all the very best!!! Happy holidays! 
Love, Tonya

What did you think of "Tidings We Bring?" Did you have a favorite scene? Why did you think Callen didn't want to work with Anna? Were you surprised by the catfight scene? Share your thoughts in the comments below. And thanks for participating in our discussion!

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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