S12E10 The Frogman's Daughter
It seems like an age since the last episode of NCISLA was broadcast. The gap is actually a week less than last year - maybe living in the COVID-19 era just makes it seem longer? The last episode, A Fait Accompli ended with Sam’s daughter Kamran being abducted and The Frogman’s Daughter utilises the ‘previously on NCIS Los Angeles’ as a reminder. The cold opening shows Kamran Hanna in some kind of unofficial jail, with more youths held in other cells. Post credits, the story picks up the following morning, with Sam at work and being unable to make contact with his daughter.
The Frogman’s Daughter is written by Jordana Lewis Jaffe and Indira Gibson Wilson. Wilson is married to former NCISLA writer and producer Joey Wilson and has twice played Sam’s wife, before she was given proper form and a voice with actress Aunjanue Ellis. Jaffe’s episodes are now synonymous with over the top guest characters, often tipping into becoming outrageous caricatures...and not of the positive type (unless that type of humour floats your boat). Thankfully here, the exaggerated characters are kept to a minimum. The cafe worker/protester is a little odd in her demeanour, Fatima is portrayed as shallow and unsympathetic and the DHS Agent is named Megan Merkel (an inside joke as the actress Tiffany Smith actually played Meghan Markle in the 2019 film, Harry & Meghan: Becoming Royal).
Sam has had more than his fair share of pain, caused by Tahir Khaled and culminating in the murder of his wife Michelle, and it is natural that Sam would overreact when he can’t reach Kam. The opening showed her predicament and her alertness, and the episode promises an intense ride which it never fully delivered. There is a distinct lack of urgency, particularly during the first half of the episode, and concern for Kam’s safety is not shared by the team. Fatima makes throwaway comments about texting and shared that when she was Kam’s age, she just did not want to talk to her father. The scene falls flat and her lack of empathy and inability to read Sam shows an immaturity and shallowness which counters the agent she was when she was introduced to the team. She later warns Rountree to avoid ops, where she left Sam trying to persuade Eric to invade his daughter’s privacy and use government resources to locate her. Surely the new agents are aware of Sam’s history? Eric refusing to help Sam when he witnessed Michelle’s painful death firsthand, was odd. There may have been no evidence but Sam’s gut instinct is rarely wrong. It took Rountree to assess the situation and realise they have to trust Sam. He also stepped up and did his best to fill a Callen-sized gap, temporarily partnering with Sam, talking sense into Sam when he loses his temper with Kamran’s secret boyfriend in the boatshed, appealing to Sam’s empathetic nature.
Kensi and Deeks began their journey to parenthood, with Kensi prescribed hormone therapy. The storyline furthers their relationship but feels totally out of place, particularly when several times, Deeks tries to encourage Kensi to talk about her feelings. She made it clear she needed to process the IVF news, prepare her mindset for the working day and would talk with Deeks later. Such attempts at conversation show a lack of concern at Sam’s predicament although mid-episode he does comment about bringing a child into such a world. Despite evidence Kam has been kidnapped, his comments fall flat and do not have the same seriousness of impact as they did during a similar conversation in The Seventh Child (S07E19).
Callen’s absence is felt keenly and is one of the reasons the episode feels off. Sam shouldn’t be going through this angst without his partner by his side. Half way through, Eric mentions that Callen’s on his way back from his trip, which prepares for his reappearance shortly after. This is a late reminder that season 12 has adopted a serialised narrative and at least Sam takes the time to ask about his trip (a story for another time). It would have made more sense if a line had been written for Sam earlier, for example that he’d called Callen who was leaving Santa Cruz immediately. His return brought renewed urgency to the case, chasing down suspects, and facilitating a higher level of understanding - in the bullpen, Sam questions his parenting skills, reflecting on Kam as a little girl and being her only protector.
A decent proportion of the episode is dedicated Kamran’s imprisonment. In the cold open, she is already assessing her predicament, asking questions of her fellow inmates and exploring her cell for opportunities. There is no shortage of evidence that she is her father’s (the frogman’s) daughter. Under the cover of tortuous flashing lights and loud metal music, Kam exploits the weakness she identified around the sink and chips away to create an escape route. Instead of leaving to seek help, she steals keys from her captors office and returns to rescue the others. Even after being recaptured and hosed, Kam plays dead to entice the bad guys closer so she can attack them.
The premise of the episode is a common one for NCISLA: how well you really know someone. The established field agents have all experienced this, whether it be Kensi in season one, hiding her profession when a friend came to town, to Deeks killing his former partner, through to Callen and Joelle. It’s much more hard hitting when it involves Sam and his teenage daughter, and how easily she hid her secret life. This lends to the repetitive (and now weary) comments about age which permeate every episode this season. Fatima’s naively insulting comments to Sam were the start and culminated when the teen protester at the cafe accused Kensi and Deeks of being over 40. Kamran’s secret life as a protest organiser allows a political agenda which is tackled by Rountree and the DHS Agent. A peaceful protest for equality and racial injustice has attracted the attention of militia groups and agitators who are travelling to LA to purely incite violence, and Homeland Security has drafted help from as many federal agencies as possible. Peaceful protests and the presence of law enforcement already seems like a recipe for disaster, especially when the agitators and the fact Kam’s peaceful protesters has a breakaway faction who believe the only way their voices will be heard is through violence, are added to the mix. Rountree’s argument that the protest could just be peaceful, is thrown to the wall when the DHS confirm a person of interest was found at a previous rally with a rucksack full of C4. It’s a progressive move, featuring such topical issues but there is little real substance when the message is reinforced that the law is there to support the peaceful protesters; the violence stemming from external agitators and a minority of violent protesters.
The Frogman’s Daughter is a slow builder of an episode, hampered by Fatima and Eric failing to grasp the severity of Sam’s concerns over his daughter’s welfare, particularly exemplified by their out of place conversation in Ops, instigated by Fatima about Eric's yellow lensed glasses. This was not helped by the lack of urgency emanating from Kensi and Deeks. The hormone treatment was bad timing (could it ever be good?) but to watch this episode as a standalone, you would not realise that Eric, Kensi and Deeks were all heavily involved in rescuing Aiden from Tahir Khaled and the frantic race against time to find Sam’s wife Michelle. Also puzzling is the ongoing case of the missing Nell Jones, AWOL for two consecutive episodes and not referenced at all. Maybe she really has morphed into Hetty..? Another curious element are the Hanna household rules, mentioned for the first time in twelve seasons and rather reminiscent of Gibbs’ rules, from the mothership, NCIS. The episode improved as it progressed, ably assisted with Kamran’s scenes, demonstrating the missed potential. She is engaging, determined and resourceful; a force to be reckoned with in a few years time. The return of Callen also lifted the episode, providing some gentle banter. The most light-hearted moments were saved for the final scenes, between the reunited Sam and Kamran, who drops her brother into trouble for helping her buy a car, and her father ribbing her for losing her voice when challenged on her secret boyfriend.