„Stonewalling“: „The act of stalling, evading, or filibustering, especially to avoid revealing politically embarrassing information.“
„The act of stalling, evading or filibustering…“–well, that description certainly fits G Callen pretty well.
We all know that G Callen isn’t one to open up easily. He has outstanding stalling skills, is an expert of evading and first class in filibustering.
Watching Callen avoiding questions about his private life and personal well-being is stonewalling in perfection. Throughout the last five seasons and the beginning of season 6 he’s made use of different ways and tactics to deflect anything he hasn’t wanted to share with others – which is almost everything that does not relate to his work (and sometimes not even that).
Let’s take a closer look at the „master of stonewalling“ and his various tactics:
1) The use of humour and/or sarcasm:
We saw him use this means in the very first episode of NCIS Los Angeles, S1x1, „Identity“. Nate tried to get Callen to talk about the drive-by shooting and its consequences. This was the first (and by far not the last) time that we’ll see Nate, the otherwise very skilled psychologist, getting the short end of the stick during an encounter with G.
Nate: Get a note from your doctor?
Callen: You’re my doctor, Nate.
Nate: Yeah, I just get to play around inside your head, though. How’s the rest of you? Aches? Pains? Insomnia?
Callen: Yeah, all of that. Before I was shot.
In S1x12, „Past Lives“, Sam followed Callen to the house of Kristen Donelly and the two had a conversation about his alias Jason Tedrow. As soon as the talk turned to the personal topic of Callen having been involved with Kristen and possibly being the father of her son, G did the „stonewalling thing“ and started joking to distract from the subject. Sam, however, knowing his partner better than anyone else, did not give in and finally managed to make him admit the truth and reveal his feelings in the end – which is rare for G Callen.
Callen: Okay… So I got close to her. She doesn’t know my real name. The man she fell in love with doesn’t even exist.
Sam: What about the kid?
Callen: He was never a suspect, either, but he did seem a little shifty.
Sam: Who’s the kid’s father?
Callen: I don’t know.
Evading an answer, attempting to change the subject entirely or using an obviously flimsy excuse to end a personal conversation – all these are different variations G uses for sidestepping a topic.
We find a classic situation of Callen stonewalling by sidestepping in the following conversation from S1x16, „Chinatown“– and this time Sam didn’t manage to squeeze an answer out of him – Callen’s private life remains… private.
Sam and Callen are coming into the office together.
Sam: If you tell me you’re picking me up at 9:00, 8:50 I’m curbside.
Callen: I got caught up in something.
Sam: What? You don’t have a TV. You don’t read the newspaper. You clearly don’t spend
any time getting ready.
Callen: Well, maybe I was working out.
Sam: (laughs) You don’t work out.
Callen: I run.
Sam: Yeah, when people are shooting at us.
Callen: Mm-hmm. All right, you know what? I slept in.
Sam: With who? You barely sleep.
Callen: There’s nobody. Come on.
Sam: I think it would be great for you to be in a relationship.
Callen: Sam, how many times are we going to have this conversation? You are my partner, not my mother.
Sam: (with motherly tone): I just want you to be happy and find a good girl.
In S5x11, „Iron Curtain Rising“ it is again Sam who saw through Callen’s stonewalling manveuer when he caught him crashing in the gym – only this time Callen is spared an answer by the arrival of „Hetty-Bot“.
Sam: You know you have a house now. You can sleep there. That’s what normal people do.
Callen: I sleep there. I do.
Sam: You’re like a cat that keeps going back to its old place, even though the owners moved.
Callen: What do you want me to say? I’m a creature of habit.
Sam: Yeah, you’re a creature, all right. Of bad habits.
Callen: What is your deal this morning? Did the kids eat your Cocoa Puffs again?
Sam: Don’t go trying to change the sub…
[Hetty clearing her throat over speaker interrupts him. They stare at..]
Sam: What the…?
[Hetty’s face is on a monitor moving on its own…]
In S5x16, „Fish Out Of The Water“ we saw a mixture of different tactics – first Callen tried to deflect Sam’s questions by joking and sidestepping and when this didn’t work, he continued with another soon-to-be-discussed tactic – refusing to answer at all:
Sam: So you guys wanna come over for dinner on Saturday night?
Callen: Who? Me and Deeks? … What?
Sam: Don’t “what” me. This is how you’re gonna play it?
Callen: Don’t know what you’re talking about.
Sam: Hope you’re a better liar next time we get in trouble.
Callen: Seriously – your lips are moving, words are coming out, they don’t make any sense. It’s like you had a stroke or something.
Sam: Fine. You can tell me or Jo can tell my wife, then she’ll tell me.
Callen: Ohh – this is about that.
Sam: Yeah, this is about that.
Callen: Well, that has nothing to do with this.
Sam: Oh, so it’s serious.
Callen: It’s not serious, it’s just personal.
Sam ( laughs): So we don’t share anymore?
Callen: Since when are you interested in my love life, huh?
Sam: Since you started having one.
Callen: Excuse me for wanting to keep some things private, okay.
Sam: Some things? You make Howard Hughes looking like an extrovert. I’m talking long hair, germaphobic, save his own urine Hughes.
3) Open refusal to answer
As shown in the above quote („It’s not serious, it’s just personal.“ / „Excuse me for wanting to keep some things private.“) sometimes Callen doesn’t use any intricate maneuvers to deflect questions, instead he went for an open denial of answering.
In some cases he has a pretty plain attitude when it comes to not giving away anything of his innermost thoughts as can be seen in the following two quotes from Season 4:
S4x22, „Ravens and Swans“
[Callen is sitting in the armory looking at a file on Grace that Eric found for him]
Sam: “You hiding in here?”
Callen: “No! Just looking for some quiet to concentrate. You guys find Vandenberg?”
Sam: “Not yet.” [Sam walks closer to Callen] “You good?”
Callen: “Do I seem good?”
Sam: “Just a little off your game.”
Callen: “Would you have made a different call at the hotel?”
Sam: “Maybe. But that doesn’t mean it would of been the right one.”
[Callen nods his head]
Sam: ” What’s going on?”
Callen [shakes his head]: “Nothing.”
Sam: “Worried about getting dressed up for the birthday party?”
Callen [laughs a little]: “Yeah that’s what it is.” [Walks out of the armoury]
Sam: “Okay! But when you’re ready, you let me know what it really is.”
Callen [turns to face Sam]: “There’s nothing to tell you.”
[Callen leaves the armory]
The meeting with Vaziri at the beach where he refuses to talk to him:
Callen: Naseem Vaziri. I know who you are. [he doesn’t take his hand]
Vaziri: Then you know we have a mutual acquaintance. Or we did. Until you killed him. I’m intrigued, Agent Callen. Why you would do such a thing? Janvier must have found your weakness.
Callen: Got nothing to say to you.
Vaziri: Just listen, then. Janvier and I were engaged in a business transaction. He was going to give me a file.
Callen: I’m not Atley.
Vaziri: Atley had a price. Janvier had a price. We all have a price. I just need to find out what’s yours.
Also, right at the beginning of „Endgame“ there’s a scene where G was stonewalling Sam rather harshly. Later we discovered that this was only a staged situation but Callen’s deflecting behaviour towards Sam is somewhat aggressive:
This almost aggressive behaviour can also be seen in his encounters with Hunter – only then it is not a staged situation but a real one, revealing that Callen clearly had severe trust issues when it came to Hunter – even more so than usual – which led to Callen closing up entirely.
In S2x24, „Familia“ Callen goes so far as to ditching Hunter during an ongoing conversation.
Hunter: Hetty’s gone, Agent Callen. She told me herself she’s not coming back.
Callen: Well, she hasn’t told me, and since she’s not answering her phone…
Hunter: Then she mustn’t want to talk with you.
Callen: You don’t know Hetty.
Hunter: On the contrary. [Callen leaves her, goes away]
Hunter: Agent Callen? [He doesn’t stop. She calls louder]: Agent Callen! A word with you? — Oh, crap.
A recent example for stonewalling by avoiding to answer at all could be seen in S6x04, Third Choir“: With Hetty being in danger Callen is in grave danger of going off the reservation again.
Sam: I hope you know what you’re doing.
Callen: I know exactly what I’m doing. I’m flushing him out.
Sam: Flushing him out. Even if it creates a mob of vigilantes? I want to get this guy, too. I just don’t want to set the city on fire to do it.
When even Sam questions G’s methods of finding Mattias he simply decides to ignore him and gets in the car.
The most „physical“ example of Callen avoiding questions was also seen just recently in S6x03, „Praesidium“: Callen escaping the DOJ’s questioning by freeing himself from the handcuffs and leaving the boathouse through the trapdoor – choosing a rather wet way to escape.
I can easily say that this scene (swimming, wet Callen having freed himself from the handcuffs) and the reaction of the DOJ lady („Son of a bitch!“) might be one of my favorite Callen stonewalling scenes so far!
So here’s for all Callen fans to savour:
4) Turning the tables
My favorite stonewalling maneuver of Callen is „turning the tables“. He is so good at it that sometimes his counterpart doesn’t even realize that Callen has switched roles – much to the delight of the audience.
In S3x3, „Backstopped“ Hunter has switched the teams (much to Callen’s dismay) and Kensi is trying to get Callen to open up a little:
[Kensi and G. are walking in a residence and run up external stairs]
Kensi: So what’s your favorite food?
Callen: Excuse me?
Kensi: Just breaking the ice.
Callen: Kensi, we’ve known each other for a long time.
Kensi: Yeah, but how much do we really know about each other? We’ve always had Sam and Deeks as these social buffers, and I know you don’t open up to anyone, but still…
Callen: You don’t exactly open up to anyone, either.
Kensi: Yeah, but I’m willing to try for the good of this partnership.
[G. stops and faces her]
Callen: I’m listening.
[She hesitates, looks at him, smiles, hesitates again, and starts going up again]
Kensi: Just stick to the case.
I particularly enjoyed the following example of Callen turning the tables during his encounter with Nate in S4x12, „Paper Soldiers“ (sorry, Nate – but how could you EVER fall for Callen’s innocent „puppy dog eyes“? Really?):
Nate: Hey, Callen, wait up. You got a minute to check in? How are things?
Callen: Good. Good. How are…things with you, Nate?
Nate: Great. It’s really good being back. But, well, now that I’m not around so much anymore, I just wanted to make sure you had someone to… talk to.
Callen: You and me both.
Nate: So you do want someone to talk to.
Callen: You know what I really want? I want to meet somebody. How did you do it?
Nate: How…? Well, it’s not really my area of expertise, but, um…I like to lay a foundation first, you know? Get to know them as a friend.
Sam: That’s exactly what I told him.
Callen: But how long, you know, before you ask her out?
Nate: Oh, well, that depends.
Callen: Well, this time, for instance.
Nate: This one was tricky–it was, like…three years.
Callen: Wow. I don’t think I’d really have the patience for that.
Sam: He really doesn’t. Three years?
Nate: When she’s the right one…you will.
Callen: That’s great. Nate, thanks for the talk.
Sam All right.
Nate: Thanks, guys.
[They leave him]
Sam: And the psychologist becomes the patient.
Callen: He never knew what hit him until it was already over.
[Sam laughs- Nate is grinning; his smile fades away]
Nate: I hate it when he does that.
But even Callen can’t beat the true master of stonewalling as this scene from S1x24, „Callen, G“ describes pretty well:
Callen had pressured Eric into giving him the address of a person of interest in a case that Hetty had taken him off of. He found that the CIA, specifically his old associate Trent Kort, was already on the scene. After Sam and Kensi arrived, Kort gave them a name of another suspect in the case, Karim Akbari. Callen had Sam call the name into Ops, explaining that Hetty had taken him off the case.
Hetty walks up next to the bullpen to find Callen casually looking through a file, as if he’d been there all along.
Hetty: I’d send you home, but I know that’d only move you from that chair, to that sofa.
Callen: I’m still looking for a place.
Hetty: I just got a rather officious phone call from a mid-level, timecard puncher at the CIA. He wanted to know why we had requested access to a classified file of an ongoing operation. Have you ever heard of, um, Karim Akbari?
Callen confidently looks her right in the eyes and declares: I don’t know anything about him.
Hetty, now looking a bit perturbed: That’s not what I asked you, Mr. Callen.
Sam walked in just in the nick of time, taking responsibility for the call to the CIA, taking the heat off his partner (for only a moment.)
And in that moment, Callen, stepped off into dangerous grounds, a bit too much smugness on his face and in his voice.
Callen: Sounds like the CIA is stonewalling us.
Hetty: I know a lot about stonewalling. (The smugness quickly vanished.) After I finished with the timecard puncher, I called the Director of the CIA who offered to brief us on Karim Akbari. The agent’s name is Trent Kort.
No longer able to withstand Hetty’s knowing stare, Callen looked down at his desk, trying his best to look nonchalant, and failing miserably. After all this time, it seems like G would have learned – Hetty knows. She ALWAYS knows. You can’t stonewall the master.
Now, we’ve found numerous examples of Callen’s stonewalling tactics and this list is far from being complete.
However, there are also those moments where Callen lowers his walls and opens up (a little). We would like to shed some light on Callen opening up in a second part of this post which is to come soon.
In the meantime, feel free to share your favorite Callen stonewalling moments with us!
Thanks to Vicki, justdreaming, Richtsje and B for their input and thoughts on the topic as well as ncis-los-angeles.hypnoweb.net for the transcripts and ncislosangelesfan for the screenshots! And last but not least thanks to sindee for taking over the tough job of looking for pictures of Callen coming out of the water – I’ll never put such a burden on you again 😉