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NCIS: LA - All is Bright - Review: "We Need the Tree"

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Note: Yes, I missed a few reviews over Christmas and New Year’s. But instead of skipping reviews, you know what I’m doing? POSTING ALL OF THEM. So here you go. Double-check to make sure you’re about to read the recap of the episode you’re interested in. This recap is for “All is Bright,” which aired December 17.

It’s Christmas time in LA! Eric and Nell have a palm tree wrapped in Christmas lights as they debate decorations. When Hidoko walks in on the situation and asks for clarification, Nell explains, “We tend to lean into the holidays around here.” Understatement.

Hidoko legit freaks out and says “Mosley doesn’t allow any type of holiday display.” Of course she doesn’t. Eric is confident it’ll be fine and plugs in the string of lights… Which makes the power to the entire office go out.

In the distance Mosley yells “Are you kidding me? Hidoko!” Okay, the writers have to be making her a complete Grinch on purpose. There’s no way a TV character can be this unlikeable accidentally.

Eric and Nell are pacing and trying to figure out how to handle Mosley when Hidoko finds them again. Eric is very upset and Hidoko assumes he spent some time in drama camp. I find this peronsally hilarious because the first time I ever heard of Barrett Foa (the actor who plays Eric,) it was when I saw him in the musical “The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee” on Broadway.

It turns out, the electric grid is down all over the westside.

Across town, Callen is knocking on his buddy Finn’s door. Remember Finn? The kid who stole one of Callen’s identities a few weeks ago but Callen developed a soft spot for? Anyway, Finn doesn’t answer the door, it’s some guy who claims to be Finn’s cousin and smells distinctly of weed. Callen pulls his badge and the “cousin” admits that he’s renting the place via Airbnb. Which, hey, loyalty. I don’t know that I would automatically cover for someone I’m renting a place from if the cops came a-calling.

At the office, Sam appears to be sleeping at his desk, but it turns out he’s actually just soaking up the peace and quiet that comes with a power outage. “Sometimes greatness can be accomplished in silence like this,” Sam says, which reminds Hidoko of a Ted Talk.

Before Sam can stand and start pacing around as he delivers a speech, Eric calls them up to the briefing room - they have a case. It is at this point that Sam makes a Michael Buble/Christmas song joke, and I take minor offense because a) Michael Buble is perfect, and b) he does SO MUCH MORE than Christmas music, y’all. That’s only one album! He’s had seven! (Nine if you count the two that were released before he made it big.)

We learn that hackers have taken the power grid down and are asking for 20 million in bitcoin (does that mean 20 million bitcoins? $20 million dollars worth of bitcoin?) to restore it. They’re essentially holding LA’s power hostage. Which, yes, evil. But also… Brilliant.

The DOD is asking that this be treated as a terrorist threat. Sam goes to Westside Electric, which handles the power for that particular grid, and brings Eric and his nerdy knowledge along. “We need to figure out exactly who it is we’re dealing with before it’s lights out for the entire western seaboard,” Mosley summarizes. No one groans at the pun, which is disappointing.

(Also, just a heads-up: Literally any time someone mentions something even remotely Christmas-related, just assume Mosley is in the background, watching intently.)

Sam and Eric, two people who are literally the opposites in every possible way, are at the station and waiting for the grid manager - didn’t know that was a job - to come out when Eric decides now’s as good a time as any to bond. “So boats, huh? Kids? Kids are okay?” Great job, Eric.

Sam eventually takes pity on the nerd and says the kids are coming home soon for winter break and he plans for them to all stay on the boat together.

Um… That seems ill-advised.

The grid manager shows up and explains that he has been doing this for 30 years. He is NOT a particularly fun guy by any means, but he lets Eric poke around in their system. When the agent discovers that this blackout was triggered from within the system, Mr. Manager directs them towards a guy who went home sick that day.

At the office, Mosley calls Nell into her office to question the petite computer tech why she found a box of Christmas decorations on the floor downstairs. Mosley is treating this box of tinsel like it’s a terrorist manifesto and if anyone sees the contents, they’ll be considered an immediate threat.

Nell rushes to explain that she was putting the decorations in storage because Hetty didn’t like the ornaments in that box.“It reminded her of a time she had lost hope…” As in Bob Hope. Mosley doesn’t even crack a smile at this and says she’ll deal with the decorations, thank you very much.

Deeks and Kensi finally arrives at the office after being stuck in gridlock traffic created by traffic lights being out. They’re in the middle of bickering about her self-imposed rule of getting only one Christmas gift for each other this year as they save for the wedding, and Deeks ropes Hidoko in. She asks if couples therapy counts as one gift or two and they’re both so impressed with her quick wit that I pause the TV to enjoy their reaction for a while.

Hidoko sends the couple off to investigate the electrician who called in sick, and Deeks glances as his file for all of half a second before dropping it on his desk before they leave. Well that doesn’t make sense. Wouldn’t he want the guy’s file?

I guess it doesn’t matter, because they find the house with ease. It’s decorated to the nines for Christmas and a woman wearing a Christmas sweater answers the door, pausing all of ten seconds before flirting with Deeks.

Kensi asks if they can speak to her son Edgar, but before the woman can come up with a lie as to his whereabouts the agents spot him running out of the house. Time for a chase scene!

Edgar runs into the street and Deeks does that cool-dude-sliding-over-a-car move, but Kensi reaches him first, tackling him into a nativity scene in a neighbor’s front yard. Then sends the baby Jesus flying into the air, which Deeks catches with the winning line, “Talk about immaculate reception.”


They take Edgar to boat shed and amid a LOT of Christmas puns, and the guy instantly confesses and asks how long he can stay in jail. Well that was easy.

He admits the whole thing was someone else’s idea, and he was hired by some woman at his mom’s rehab facility. She offered him 20 grand and he took it, needing to get out of debt and pay for some of his mom’s expenses.

Quick pause to say that Deeks has either been straight-up living in the gym every moment he’s not on camera, or he’s figured out the ideal way for a guy to rest his arms while sitting backwards in a chair, because his biceps appear twice as large as usual. Seriously, is he filming a movie or something?

Okay, so they go back into the main room and talk to Nell via video chat, where it is revealed that Kensi stole a lamb from the nativity scene. Dang, Kensi. That’s some Grinch behavior, right there. But worse, because it's from a nativity.

Nell also informs Callen that she found Finn, who’s been living in a van. While Callen is working through his mad dad reaction, Deeks reminds us all that vans are notoriously creepy. How right you are, Deeks.

Sam has returned to the office and Mosley intercepts him with, “If you killed Eric, I suggest you cover it up. I’m not in the mood for that paperwork.”

Y’all. Mosley just said something I laughed out loud at!

Seemingly unprompted, Nell rushes up to Hidoko and abruptly asks her what her SAT score was. 1580. Huh, not bad. Nell feels the same.

What prompted this scholastic trip down memory lane? “I know what all my friends got on their SATs so now it’s official, we’re buds,” she explains, dragging Hidoko away to a private office. They pass the incinerator room where Mosley is burning tinsel. Good grief.

They’re hammering in this “Mosley hates Christmas” thing pretty hard, so I’m assuming she’s going to relax and decorate by the end of the episode or something.

Nell is busy telling Hidoko that sometimes the team doesn’t get to spend the holidays with their real families, but they spend them with who they have there. “So we remember what it was like when Granger and Hetty were here… We need the tree,” declares Nell, slightly tearing up. “I need the tree.” This convinces Hidoko to join in on Operation Christmas, and the women roll the Christmas palm tree away.

Apparently Callen is having no problem in the gridlock traffic as he’s made his way to Finn’s van. No one is inside but he sees a bunch of laptops in the back. Uh oh…

Elsewhere in town, Kensi and Deeks are driving to the rehab clinic on a motorcycle, wearing Christmas hats on their helmets. They look absolutely absurd.

The security guard helps them go through footage to see who paid off the electrician to turn off LA’s power. During all of this the security guard is complaining about his coworker and soon-to-be ex-wife, to which Deeks winks and says not everyone can make office romance work.

They discover that the person who sponsored this whole thing is a 30-something woman, whom Sam recognizes back at the office as Alicia Fuentes, the sister of Jose Fuentes. Their family runs the second-largest Mexican drug cartel.

Sam and Callen head to the prison where Jose is being held and find that the prison was out of power for three minutes before the generators kicked in. The agents go to see Fuentes in his cell and… The guy in there is not Fuentes. No way, Jose!

(I’m sorry, I had to say it. It was just begging to be said.)

It sounds like Jose was pulled out and replaced during the three-minute outage.

During all of this, Callen and Sam are talking about - of course - Sam’s Christmas plans. Callen offers to let his partner and kids stay at his place, but Sam is insistent about them all cramming into a boat. Dude, again, that’s not a great idea.

Deeks and Kensi head to Alicia Funtes’ house - via Christmas-themed motorcycle of course - and he agrees to the one present rule as long as she never drives the motorcycle again. But before Kensi can revel in her victory, a car drives out of the garage literally through the door and you know what that means! You guessed it! Christmas-themed motorcycle chase time!

They incapacitate Alicia and bring her in to the boat house, where Sam and Callen interview her. She has no interest in cooperating, since the cops threw her brother in jail when they were just born into the criminal life, they never had a choice.

Callen tries to convince her that now’s her chance to break the cycle for good, so she fesses up that Jose is on his way to a Christmas / Welcome Home party. I don’t know, maybe it’s just me, but I feel like if I had just ESCAPED prison, I wouldn’t be attending a big party with a bunch of guests. I mean, I’m no hardened criminal (that you know of,) but it just seems a little bit obvious.

The team infiltrates the party, and they must get so much use out of their cater waiter uniforms because they pull those things out every other episode. Deeks is dressed as Santa, because of course he is.

They corner Jose and Callen is facing off with him in the driveway when Jose’s five-year old son runs up. Callen doesn’t want to ruin the son’s memory of his father, so he waits until Deeks/Santa runs up to escort the kid away before starting to arrest Jose.

When Jose says the only reason he even came home was to see his son, Callen’s heart grows about three times in size and he lets him hang out for another thirty minutes before he arrests him.

That was sweet. Unrealistic, but sweet.

As the case wraps up, the team returns to the office, which has been completely decked out in all things Christmas by the Grinch herself, Director Mosley. Called it!

Nell rolls out the eggnog, and it feels like a classic team Christmas party from seasons past. Nice of Mosley to see what the team needed and support them.

All the side stories start to wrap up. Kensi and Deeks decide that the best marriages are built on compromise, so he’ll agree to one gift this year if next year they can go insane with presents. He’s already started his list. Sam took Eric’s advice and got a hotel for his family. He had been trying to make the first Christmas without Michelle different, but it’s just going to be hard no matter what. Hidoko pops into Mosley’s office to compliment her for supporting something that was important to the team, and we’re reminded that maybe she doesn’t like Christmas decorations because it makes her think of the son she can’t spend the holidays with.

Callen slips out to check on Finn, who is organizing the laptops, now in Christmas wrapping, in the back of the van. Turns out he rented out the place on Airbnb for money to buy all of the completely legal gifts, which he’s going to donate to the shelter he was in before Callen bailed him out.

Callen is surprised and chagrined. “They didn’t choose to get passed over and yet they get reminded of it every year,” he tells Finn. He helps Finn distribute the gifts and discovers that he kid has been renting out his place for $200/night.

Oh, come ON. That’s insane.

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