We’ve contemplated about Callen’s stonewalling tactics recently. Now we think it’s high time to take a closer look at those moments when G lowers his wall and lets us see a little of his innermost thoughts and feelings – those scenes that add an intriguing vulnerability to the otherwise badass agent.
Despite his constant deflective behaviour when it comes to his private life, we‘ve managed to get some glimpses of Callen’s past. Just bits and pieces, often emotional ones, but they add to the mysterious puzzle that G Callen is and make us feel with him.
When questioning Alex Walder in S1x6, „Keepin’ it real“, he shared a story of his past as a foster kid – a rare moment.
Callen: There was this kid. Jason. He was a couple of years older than me, and I lived with him in a foster home. He looked out for me. Not for any other reason than it was just the right thing to do. He used to make up these, uh, “G” names for me: G-Money, G-Ride, G-Force… One night, our foster dad got drunk and he beat him to death. I felt bad ’cause I didn’t do anything to help him. I still do. Who killed Brandon, Alex?
Agent Giordano thought he might have made that story up to get Walder talking – but when asking about it, Callen sidestepped her question and didn’t answer, the stonewalls were back up again.
Giordano: Wow. That was pretty damn cool, Callen. Any of it true?
Callen: Rick Pargo. You know him?
It is possible that this story is not real, that Callen only invented it, but I don’t think so. With a past like his I doubt that he would make a story like that up.
Callen’s stonewalling is a direct result of his trust issues and often leads to his going lone wolf again. On those rare occasions when Callen opens up it is mainly Sam who is on the receiving end – which is proof that Callen trusts Sam more than anyone else.
Search and Destroy, S1x4
Sam: You looking for someone?
Callen: One of my pit stops as a kid was a couple blocks from here. Wonder if I’m passing anyone I used to know. Not that it matters now.
Sam: If it didn’t matter, you wouldn’t have brought it up, G.
In S3x1, „Lange, H“, Callen revealed to Sam (and only Sam) what he remembered about his past in Romania – again, that scene is a huge sign of trust between the two partners. Despite his reluctance in the beginning, Callen shared his moving memories with Sam:
Sam: How do you know this place?
Callen: I was born here.
Sam: You got 30 minutes.
Callen: To do what?
Sam: To tell me what just happened on the beach.
[Callen glares at him]
[Romania. Auto trade warehouse. Sam and Callen are checking their guns]
Sam: You gonna tell me what spooked you?
Callen: You said I had 30 minutes; it’s only been seven.
Sam: How long is it gonna take you to tell me?
Callen: About a minute.
Sam: Then you got 22 minutes.
Callen: Goooood. That’s the third time you’ve stripped that pistol. You’ll wear it out.
Sam: Yeah, just load your ammo, okay?
[Callen sighs, drops his weapon, stares at Sam and hesitates. Sam looks at him, waiting. Callen sits down and starts his tale]
Callen: Those memories I told you about–the guy giving me the toy soldier. I always just assumed that’s where it took place–on a local beach, kids playing.
[Callen reminds the football players on the beach]
Callen: I was making sand castles.
[He’s back on the beach; he has put the tin soldier on his castle; the day is very sunny – Callen shakes his head; he’s touched – He looks at his buddy]
Callen: This is where I’m from, Sam.
Sam: How can you be so sure?
Callen: I remembered…
[Words are not easy; tears appear in his eyes]
Callen: …a woman.
[At the beach, the woman with a large hat is laughing]
Callen: My mother.
[Little boy Callen is busy with his castle. Two men come; one of them stops in front of him; gun shots. The boy gets up at the sound: the 2nd man is lowering his gun, the woman is slumped in his armchair]
Callen: [Angrily] They shot her.
[The agents exchange a long look… Callen lips quiver…]
However, in the course of the five seasons of the show we have seen him starting to open up a little more towards Kensi and Deeks as well:
S5x4, Reznikov, N.
[Bullpen. Reinhardt’s ID on screen. Deeks stands up and gives G a photo]
Callen: I was ten years old.
Callen: Oh, yeah, the McPhersons. They had a trucking company. They were my…tenth foster house.
Kensi: How long did you live there for?
Callen: Just a few weeks…I actually liked her. I used to help her with her gardening.
Deeks: What about him?
Callen: Not so much. Used to beat me with a broom handle.
[Deeks and Kensi exchange a look. G doesn’t look at them]
Kensi: Is that why they moved you?
Callen: They moved me because one day I took the broom handle out of his hand and I broke it over his head.
Whether Callen shared this piece of information with Kensi and Deeks on purpose or he just let it slip accidentally while being caught up in his memories – it is proof that Callen (consciously so or not) is finally starting to open up and let the team members in, at least to a certain extent.
And then there were those few times when Callen shared memories and thoughts with people he somehow identified with and thus allowed himself to lower his external as well as his internal walls. The following scene with the boy Alex from S4x20, „Purity“ might be perceived as an act of stonewalling because G evaded answering the questions properly but for those who know about Callen’s past it sheds a little light on his days in foster care:
[Alex is on a swing in a garden, looking gloomy. A woman accompanies G out of the house, and leaves them. Both have a baseball glove]
Callen: Morning, Alex.
Alex: Didn’t think you’d come.
Callen: I said I would. Got a ball?
[He takes it]
Callen: Let’s toss it. What did you have for breakfast?
Callen: Lucky. Pancakes?! Sheesh.
[They exchange balls]
Callen: How’d you sleep last night?
Alex: Okay, I guess.
Callen: If you sleep well the first night, it means you’re in a good place.
Alex: How do you know?
[Callen half-smiles, half-sighs]
Callen: I just do.
[♫ They keep playing…♫]
Callen also let us have a glimpse into his inner life during his conversation with Walton Flynn in S1x4, „Search and Destroy“. Coming face to face with someone who is so much like him and whose life bears so many similarities to his, we became witnesses of one of those rare moments when Callen talked about things that could be, a possible future, a turn he maybe would like his life to take… thoughts he probably doesn’t allow himself to think under usual circumstances. Just a few sentences – but carrying a huge meaning…
Callen: DOD will do your intake locally, then they’ll ship you off to D.C. for protective custody until the trial’s over.
Flynn: Yeah, right. And one day, we’ll both live in the burbs, barbecue with our neighbours and coach little league.
Callen: I don’t know. Teaching your son how to play baseball sounds petty idyllic.
Flynn: Yeah, it does. But that’s why we do what we do, so others can live those lives.
It may be just my impression, but Callen’s character seems to have become a little lighter over the course of the past seasons. Having confirmation now that he once was part of loving family, the growing level of trust and comfort he seems to have around his NCIS „family“ and even his relationship with Joelle (wether still intact or not) might account for that.
The latest and one of the most touching moments of Callen lowering his walls was seen just recently in episode 6×12, „ Spiral“, and again, it’s Sam with whom he shares his feelings. Not only did we see a very emotional Callen thanking Sam for being there when he woke up but he also acknowledged his thoughts and regrets in the face of death, one among them standing out:
G: „I regret giving up on believing that I might meet my dad someday.“
However, as Sam stated, there is still time for Callen to make up for missed opportunities and lost time. Might this touching moment be a lead-in for some Callen-centric scenes and more revelations in the episodes to come? I sincerely hope so!
What about you other Callen fans out there? Have we mentioned your favorite scene? How do you think Callen’s behaviour has changed over the course of the seasons? And do you think Callen will meet his father someday? If so, what do you think will happen? Will his walls collapse entirely? Will he finally be able to trust and settle down? Looking forward to reading your thoughts on this topic!
As usual, 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 everything she does!
Callen’s interrogation with Lance in “Skin Deep” (Season 4, Ep. 7) … he relives memories of foster care. He also knows his team is watching him. This one just tore me up.
Callen: How many foster placements did you have Lance?
Callen: I had 37. For me the good ones were the hardest. You start to feel a little bit at home … make a friend …
Lance: Sleep through the night.
Callen: Yeah. Yeah, that was great, wasn’t it? And then something would happen.
Lance: And they’d ship you off.
Allen: Usually not to someone so nice. Only, this time you don’t let anyone in … ‘cause it’s too risky. But here’s the thing, Lance … we’re not in foster homes anymore. Sometimes we have to remind ourselves … we’re not that helpless little kid anymore, either.
I really enjoy the scenes where we get bits and pieces of Callen’s days in foster care and see his soft spot for others in that situation. I really hope we will finally get to see Callen meets his Dad and learns his name. I think the one thing I fear about the show is that at some point CBS cancels it before we get to know those answers. We Callen fans are really invested in seeing Callen finally get his answers.
Thank you for this amazing article!
I loved the scenes at the end of earlier episodes, when Callen and Hetty used to talk to each other. No big revelations but they were (usually) honest.
When Callen asked Hetty whether she had ever thought about having a family (when I’m older) or their conversation about ravens and swans. And I loved the end of episode LD50. Callen promised Hetty that he’ll do whatever she needs if she ever would be in an instutition for erderly people. He would even smuggle tea for her dressed as an orderly 🙂
That scene in the car with Flynn was such a great one. Nearly forgot, it was touching indeed how after that, he had flowers sent to Flynn’s ‘girlfriend’ – make her believe life is okay…
I also think the scene in Grey Man(one of my favorite episodes of this season), where he bursts with frustration, anger, sadness and hurt about his own Father not searching for him. I believe that is where Callen gave up his belief of finding him.
I am not sure if Callen is more open, I do see him grounded and allows him to focus on other things. Hetty and Sam are those anchors that have helped him in that.(Not a particular friend who is a girl! 🙂
Very touching moments of Callen temporarily lowering the walls. Thank you for the post!