The trend of season eight has been to shake up the partnerships, to bring back characters from previous seasons and to allow Nell and Eric the opportunity to develop outside the safety of the ops centre. Much of this has been due to Daniela Ruah’s pregnancy and the influence of new showrunner Scott Gemmill, and the result has reinvigorated the show. Getaway not only sees the return of Anna, but also reintroduces NCIS Agent Dave Flynn, last seen in season four’s failed backdoor pilot of NCIS Red. Dave is now with the Cyber Division in San Diego and Hetty ‘borrows’ him to run ops, which allows Nell and Eric to work together on their first undercover assignment – as a couple.
Such a storyline could have gone one of two ways; it would either be an overwhelming success or embarrassingly awkward. Luckily it was the former. The most logical pair to go undercover as a couple is Kensi and Deeks, who naturally leapt at the opportunity. Their eagerness was shot down by Hetty who reasoned that the wonder twins would be better suited, as they were targeting a married couple with highly technical knowledge, suspected of hacking the US Treasury Department. The undercover assignment took place at a woodlands couples retreat and bearing in mind Hetty’s reasoning, it was surprising that none of this came in to play. There was a few ‘geek jokes’ when Nell and Eric introduced themselves to the couple, Tara and Paul Nelson but no other remotely techie conversations. Kensi and Deeks could easily have been assigned the mission instead of being on overwatch duty.
Writer Erin Broadhurst has treated all the characters in Getaway with respect, particularly the wonder twins. Gone is most of Eric’s ever increasing oddness and Nell’s superiority and in its place is a genuine revelation of emotions. As part of the couples retreat event, Eric is asked to tell Nell about the moment he realised he was in love with her. The scene was reminiscent of S3 Neighbourhood Watch, when an undercover Kensi and Deeks recalled what they were each wearing when they first met. The recollections elicit real feelings and for Nell and Eric, it is the first step towards taking their relationship further.
The show’s established couple have been reunited in the field for the last few episodes and Kensi and Deeks have immediately slotted back in to the patter of their partnership. There is banter, jokes, a few innuendos and a conversation about how easily Deeks makes friends, a talent of which Kensi seems envious yet interested in the skills required for this. Together they provide the light relief, listening in to Nell and Eric via comms yet they really have no involvement in the case. Admittedly they do give chase to the bad guy in their rickety old RV, which has little effect apart from to add some comedy. Nell and Eric have been fully-blooded in their first undercover mission, and it is Eric who shoots the explosive container on the rear of the bad guy’s vehicle, causing it to explode.
The case itself seems overly complex when Nell and Eric gave their usual briefing to Sam and Callen in Ops, only for this to be repeated in the boatshed by Deeks’ friend, NSA Agent Mike Donaldson, but in a more simplified manner. That in itself should serve as a reminder to writers that the case should not require repeated explanations, and there also seemed to be a disconnect between the two men dining in an up market restaurant in the opening pre-credits sequence. With the partners split, Sam was paired with Anna to follow up on leads from the murder. They encountered the usual bad guys and once again demonstrated that Anna can fight any man just as well as Kensi.
The most interesting aspect to their partnership is how Anna (as does Kensi and sometimes Deeks), turns to Sam for advice and guidance. This time, she is concerned about Callen who seems to be blowing hot and cold in their relationship. Sam reassures her that Callen’s furniture purge is in-character, although using the dining set for firewood is odd! The reveal though, could be when Anna asks Sam how he copes. Sam talks to Michelle who understands exactly what he goes through. Is there a little foreshadowing here? After all the mole storyline is not over and Sabatino is still out there. And once again it has been teased that Sam will be greatly impacted during this season’s finale.
Callen is clearly struggling to cope with the revelation of Joelle’s betrayal and Anna is not the only one worried about his mental health. The opening bullpen scene has Sam using his replacement Challenger Jennifer as an analogy, as the loss of his former Challenger Charlene was like a gut punch, and Jennifer was in the garage for a year before he got over it. Callen checks if they’re still talking about the car – subtly is not really Sam’s style. Hetty too is worried and takes a ‘tough love’ approach, sending Callen to an address which turns out to be Joelle’s home, which she shares with her husband and son. The confrontations with Joelle (aka Beth) are painful and cruel, as Callen realises the depths of her deceit. Joelle bluntly admits she was married with a three year old child when they were sleeping together and she warns Callen not to show up at her house again, as it makes him look desperate. In the closing scene Hetty is on the sofa in the bullpen rather than at her desk, allowing for a different perspective. Hetty’s point is that forcing Callen to confront Joelle enabled him to view her differently and to cauterise his wounds. Luckily this wasn’t counterproductive as it could easily have caused Callen to continue rebuilding those walls that Hetty, Sam and Anna have noticed him reconstructing lately.
The change of perspective has not only been for Hetty and Callen but also for Nell and Eric. By forcing them to act as a couple, their relationship seems to have been sealed with the kiss which took place just after Eric shot the bad guy’s car (and with Kensi and Deeks watching). To reiterate the opening points, the return of characters such as Anna Kolcheck, Dave Flynn and others such as Callen’s father, together with Kensi’s absence from the team and the continual references to past cases, allows for a fresh perspective of the show. The dynamics of the partnerships fluctuate and the show, whilst maintaining its procedural nature, has become more serialised. There are still episodes such as this, which work reasonable well on its own for the casual viewer, but season eight does seem to be rewarding the long-term viewer.