Category Archives: In the Bullpen

Season Four…You Ain’t Seen Nothing Yet! by Phillydi


Shaun Brennan and his NCIS:LA crew gave us a very informative recap of the show’s last 24 episodes on the Season Three DVD extras. The executive producer was pleased that the story-lines progressed much further than he had anticipated…taking the characters deeper into areas of their work and personal lives and leaving us open to many more surprises to look forward to as we await the premiere of Season Four tomorrow night.

It was the year of the partner according to Brennan, and for better or worse the characters were able to build on their relationships within the angst and excitement of each week’s storyline. Over the past three years, we have seen the team evolve into a tight unit, and there has been a clear progression from year to year. In Season One, the team was finding its way as the younger and less-experienced probies (like Kensi and Dom) learned from the well-seasoned senior agents Callen and Sam. In its sophomore year, the show’s storylines focused on a subtle blending of new members (Deeks & Hunter) while letting go of some older ones (Dom & Nate).  Season Three lent itself to character development as the team learned just how important it was to find the right partner who you could trust – and one who always had your back!

Season Three was a year of team building and discovery

In Season Three, Sam and Callen celebrated five years together, cementing their strong bromance. Even though there are still many unanswered questions about his past, Callen now has some clues on how to go about finding the rest of his family, especially his father. This year, we also got to know a little bit more about Sam’s family and his role as a husband and father.  Will his big reveal next season focus more on this aspect of his life?

For me, the duo who was the most fun to watch in Season Three was Deeks and Kensi.   Densi learned to work more harmoniously and not be afraid to lean on each other. They were able to establish a trust that surprised both of them – as well as the audience – despite each partner’s traumatic past. It was fun to peel away the layers and see what makes Kensi tick.  Delving into her father’s murder and reconnecting with her estranged mother, revealed a part of Kensi we had never seen before.  Of course, we also want to go deeper in Deeks’ past live to find out how much of his troubled childhood influenced him to become the law enforcement agent he is today. Hopefully one day we will see this aspect of Deeks’ life.

I think a lot of fans were surprised at how much Eric and Nell’s relationship jelled over the past season. There is definitely a strong attraction and admiration for each other’s skills and it goes well beyond finishing each other’s sentences. They certainly find working with each other exhilarating and the best reason to walk through the Mission doors every day!  What secrets might emerge about Eric this season as we anticipate both him and Nell getting to work in the field more and more?

Let’s not forget Hetty and Granger! Not exactly a team in the traditional sense of the word but their seasoned relationship went from respect to bitterness, from love to hate. Their explosive dynamic added a sharp edge to the generally cooperative atmosphere within the agency. Hetty once trusted Ganger but now things have deteriorated. Granger charged into the department like a bull in a china shop, often usurping Hetty’s authority and stepping on one too many toes.   In the closing final minutes of the season finale, Hetty decides the only answer is to resign after the horrifying deaths of Hunter and Renko and in the face of Callen’s final actions.  Is she under too much stress and pressure to continue to lead her team?  Or is her resignation part of a sting?


What will Season Four have in store?

Right before Callen went loan wolf by executing the Chameleon, the team worked as a tight, cohesive unit.  But with his reckless behavior and Hetty’s abrupt retirement, the team has been thrown totally off balance.  This year the big changes may be all about the rebuilding of partners and the loyalty and trust that has been lost.   Team members may be pushed to their limits more than ever before.  View the new season trailers and you’ll see Sam questioning Callen’s motives in episode one.  In interviews, LL Cool J has hinted that Sam and Callen’s relationship has taken a turn for the worse and that a lot of strange things are going to happen.  Could this be the year the team’s strong bonds are put to the test?

So what will define Season Four?  Please share with us what you think will happen and let us know!

Thanks to Lynn H.

Frakes to Direct in Season Four!


In May I had the chance to meet one of my favorite actors/directors, Jonathan Frakes. We chatted at the Creation Star Trek Convention celebrating the 25th Anniversary of Star Trek: The Next Generation.  Frakes was joined by his former co-stars Patrick Stewart, Brent Spiner and LeVar Burton in Cherry Hill, New Jersey for three lively days of talks, autograph signing and picture taking.  I was a faithful fan of the sci-fi show back then and proudly call myself a Trekker.  I always had a ‘thing’ for the tall, dark man with the beard.  Twenty-five years later, Number-One is still tall, dark and handsome, and, extremely charming to boot. And if that’s not enough, he is quite funny too!   For me, his non-stop banter on stage with Brent Spiner was one of the highlights of the convention.

Frakes signing autographs at the Star Trek Convention, Cherry Hill, NJ


Although I was scheduled to meet up with him later in the day for a photo shoot, I caught Jonathan sitting at his autograph table, where I took the opportunity to ask him about his director duties on my other favorite TV show, NCIS:LA.  I sensed that he was happy to shift gears from actor to director, so  I asked him about his future assignments as well as his most recent NCIS:LA project, directing the first of the two-part episode… Blye, K.  


Jonathan said he enjoyed his time directing the cast and crew on that episode, especially Daniella Ruah and Eric Christian Olsen. He found them both “funny, professional, and great to work with.”  He also thought Ruah’s character, Kensi Blye, has become stronger and more confident due to the addition of LAPD liaison, Marty Deeks. Together, they sparkle on screen.  Blye,K  revealed the mystery behind the death of Kensi’s father and received some of the highest ratings of the year.


Getting a chance to meet up with Jonathan Frakes!


Jonathan said he would be directing another NCIS:LA episode in either September or October. He promised NCIS:LA Magazinea more in- depth interview to talk about the show and his work as a film and television director.  What a treat that we were able to steal some of his valuable time at the convention.  We’re really looking forward to his next assignment behind the camera atand to sharing his thoughts with you!


“In the Bullpen” with @phillydi – A Fine Bromance Pt2

Welcome back to In the Bullpen for the second part of our exploration of what makes a great bromance. Maxie Kay joins me again in our study of the Sam and Callen partnership. The timing of last week’s episode – Vengeance couldn’t have been better in helping us learn more about this special relationship. It had all the trademarks of a classic bromantic episode, don’t you think?

Bromance or Romance? Or are they just good friends?

There’s a small group of fans who would love to see Sam and Callen get it on, but that seems highly unlikely. Theirs is the archetypal buddy relationship, with real and deep affection for each other, but no romantic spark. Their partnership is more honest and more successful than either man has managed to achieve in his personal life: Callen’s marriage of convenience seems to have put him off any further commitment and there’s been precious little hint of any romance for him in the show. And Sam’s relationship with his wife is built on an increasingly precarious series of half-truths about his job, and downright denial about the fact that he allowed himself to be tempted by another woman.

So how serious is their partnership?

There is no doubt that Sam and Callen take their partnership very seriously; there is no doubt about how much they care for each other. Is it love? Most definitely, but in a non-romantic sense. In Partners, they give each other gifts – really thoughtful gifts too. But like romantic couples who have lived and worked together for many years, they don’t need to say much to get their point across. In Vengeance, Callen says: Okay, talk to me. What Sam hears is: I’m here; I need to know, I might not like it, but tell me anyway. They know the other person like a book, inside and out.

Sam worries about Callen’s mental state in Lange, H., and hovers over him like a hen-pecked husband. He needs to know that Callen will be ok — and he even asks him twice to be sure. The worried expression on Sam’s face says it all. Sam is always willing to go where Callen leads, even if it’s morally compromising. That’s how much he trusts his partner. When the team finally gets to Prague, Callen chastises Sam for complaining by telling him he didn’t have to come. Sam responds with four words that say it all, “Yet here we are.” Where else would he be? As Eric said: Where Callen goes…Sam goes.

We know they are solid, and we know there was never any chance that Sam would actually kill Callen when commanded to do so. The same can’t be said about Callen’s former partner (and ex-wife) Tracey. Callen said that she was the sort of person who would put the mission before her partner. Sam knows that he always has to protect the mission but he also knows that he was part of the ultimate team – the Navy Seals. He carries this tight-knit brotherhood over to this new partnership with Callen. He will always protect his own.

What also makes this partnership different is the lack of recriminations, When they do happen, it is usually only in very light-hearted tones, which lets the audience know that any cracks in their relationship are superficial and can easily be mended. Even in Vengeance when Callen berates Sam for not stepping in and participating in the investigation, in the end it is Callen who pleads with Hetty for Sam’s job. Every time he points to another Seal who exits the cave safely, Callen shows Hetty another reason why Sam made the right decision to let the team go. He honors the character of the man who would die for what’s right. All the clues are there: this is a solid, almost unshakeable bond.

Who then is the dominant partner?

Is it Callen, with his gift for languages, or Sam, with his knowledge of Arabic language, life and culture? Is it Sam, who insists on driving the motorcycle, or Callen who sits in the sidecar? Does it even matter?

Callen has been described as the ‘lone wolf’ and the one character who (with the possible exception of Kensi) is most defined by his past. Season two focused on how Callen is literally haunted by his past, and even Sam is shown to be almost helpless. Family — or the absence thereof — is a common theme that binds Callen, Deeks and Kensi. We know that those three had difficult childhoods. But what about Sam? Given his character, it seems reasonable to assume that he had a stable, balanced childhood. It’s this stability that Callen counts on the most in times of need. Without it he is the eternal ‘lone wolf’- always on the run.

The bromantic duo have been through some tough missions together and have worked in just about every single location found in a James Bond movie (with the exception of the Moon). Is there anything these guys can’t do together? So whether it’s a romance or bromance there is definitely a love affair between these two than goes beyond any type of typical bond. And even though Kensi once likened them to an old married couple after Sam accused Callen of never listening to him, there’s probably nothing these two wouldn’t do for each other.

At the beginning of season one, Sam and Callen banter during the episode The Only Easy Day. The following dialogue gives a revealing explanation of why their bromance works:

Sam: Holgate had the tendency to work together like a lone wolf, if you know what I’m talking about?
Callen: (Callen squints at Sam) Actually half the time I don’t know what you’re talking about…the rest of the time I just disagree.
Sam: I really look forward to having Dom as a partner.
Callen: You’d miss me. I complete you.

Yes, together they are complete. It doesn’t get much simpler than that.

Thanks for participating in the Bromance vs. Romance poll. Looks like Romance trumps Bromance by almost three to one! (Do you hear that Mr. Brennan?) Whatever partnership you prefer, it’s great to be able to watch these wonderful characters fill our TV screens every week. Thanks go out to Maxie Kay in helping me co-author the column this week. Make sure you check out her latest NCIS LA fan fic That’s Just the Way it Is. Thanks go out again to Lynn H as usual for her input. Stop by the Bullpen the next time when Sweet Lu and I delve a bit further into Sam’s Navy Seal past and what it’s like to be a member of this elite team.

See you then.

Missed Part One of the column ?? Read it here…

About the author…

“In the Bullpen” with @phillydi – A Fine Bromance

The Urban Dictionary describes the word bromance as the complicated love and affection shared by two straight males. There is only one relationship on NCIS LA that fits that description to a ‘t’ and that’s the team of Callen and Sam. Now that our bromatic duo has celebrated five years together, fanfiction writer Maxie Kay and I will take a closer look at this complex partnership.

Bromance brings together the two words: “brother” and “romance”. Author Dave Carnie originally coined the word in Big Brother Magazine which was a skateboarding/cultural publication. The expression is rapidly finding its way into pop culture axioms. If you are looking for ways to channel your inner bromance, there are iPhone apps that can connect you to other guys who share your interest, bromance television sitcoms, music; and numerous articles on the subject (Ten Signs your Guy is in a Bromance, Are You and Your Best Buddy in a Bromance?).

As a fan of NCIS LA there is only one bromance that matters. If you are a Sam and Callen devotee, you have probably been fascinated by this A-Team within OSP. No doubt about it. They’ve got the shared history, the wise-cracks and the sometimes almost impenetrable code words that leave Kensi and Deeks (the young pretenders) just shaking their heads. There is a fine and honorable tradition of onscreen buddy relationships. Special mentions go to such legendary partnerships as Butch and Sundance, Starsky and Hutch and even Crockett and Tubbs of Miami Vice. Like the movies and TV series from which these partnerships sprang, NCIS LA is not only about solving the crime and catching the bad guys, it is also about the personal relationship between the good guys too.

Do Sam and Callen’s pasts hold the secret?

This is a long-established relationship, which since the beginning of season 2 has been contrasted against the developing partnership of Kensi and Deeks. Sam and Callen are the pros, sailing effortlessly through the travails, while the youngsters are still trying to figure out how this partnership thing works, right?

Think again.

Season 2 showed us that the big boys don’t always have it so easy. In two successive episodes (Little Angels and Stand Off) we discover that each man has been keeping secrets from the other. And not just inconsequential secrets, but really important ones – secrets that have shaped them and made them the men they are today (Sam was buried alive with a buddy who died; Callen was married). And at this point, they have been working together for four years. It is clear that they don’t share everything.

The secrets theme is expanded in season 3, when Sam meets Jada, and falls in love with her. Clearly this puts Callen in a doubly awkward position. First: he knows Sam is using her. Falling in love is not part of the game. Second: Callen has spent a lot of time with Sam’s family. He has stayed over on numerous occasions, and even shared a bunker with them! Callen now learns that Sam has given away part of his heart to another woman. That’s going to make Callen’s next meeting with Sam’s wife a little awkward. But Callen is used to lying to her. In some ways, the NCIS LA partners are always in their undercover roles — even to the outside world. It has to be hard keeping all the lies straight.

At this point, maybe Sam and Callen’s only honest relationship is with each other. They’ve gotten past the revelations of season 2, and have reached the point where only their partner gets to see the true man behind the pretense. It is a place where there is no need or reason to lie. During Season 3’s opening episode, Lange, H., Sam gives Callen thirty minutes to tell him what happened on the beach. He knows Callen will eventually tell him the truth, but he also knows not to push him either. Out of respect for his partner’s privacy Sam sends Kensi and Deeks to the beach to take pictures. Callen now feels comfortable in sharing with Sam his heartbreaking childhood revelation about his mother. It was a poignant moment in the show and demonstrated how the two take care of each other.

A Study in Contrasts: Is Sam the Wendy to Callen’s Peter Pan?

Sam and Callen couldn’t be more different, and yet they complement each other perfectly. Although one man is black and the other white, race has never been an issue in their relationship. There’s too much respect and admiration there. (The incredible screen chemistry between Chris O’Donnell and LL Cool J doesn’t hurt either.) But that may be the only time you don’t see a difference because Sam is (ostensibly) a family man, with a wife, at least one child and a house. On the other side, Callen has spent much of his time avoiding the accoutrements of adult life, such as a mortgage and possessions. Callen sees no problem about sofa-surfing until Hetty actually forces him to sign the mortgage agreement for the house. Ying and Yang. Positive and negative.

Perhaps they are simply two sides of the same coin. Both men have backgrounds in covert operations, which explain Sam’s obsessive need for secrecy and Callen’s lone-wolf tendency. But as Callen once said, theirs is a brotherhood forged in fire. So much so, that when Hunter switched partners on the team, Sam actually looked as if he was going through partnership withdrawal when he had to work with Deeks. And who could forget Callen’s funny shade of green as he exited the passenger side of Kensi’s car. These two guys are lost when they can’t feel each other at their backs.

Next Week

Come back next week for part two, when Maxie Kay and I explore the difference between love and bromance…. is there really a difference? Also, take our bromance poll in the sidebar. Do you prefer watching a romantic partnership on screen like Kensi or Deeks or would you rather watch Sam and Callen’s bromance? We’ll share the results of the poll in next week’s column. Thanks go out to my writing partner, Maxie Kay and also to Lynn H. for her input. Join us again next week for In the Bullpen with Phillydi and friends!

“In the Bullpen” with @phillydi – From Navy Seal to NCIS Agent – Sam Hanna

Welcome back to In the Bullpen!

Have you ever wondered what type of man becomes a Navy Seal? Sam Hanna was a legend during his time spent as a Chief Petty Officer and Navy Seal. But what’s myth and what’s fact? I’ve asked fan fiction writer Sweet Lu to join me in taking a revealing look at the man behind the hero and what it’s like to be a member of one of the most elite clubs in the world.

I was lucky and honored in my past life to work for the US Navy for 10 year at the Navy Family Service Center (NFSC) in Little Creek, Virginia which serves as the headquarters for Naval Special Warfare Group Two, and most notably Seal Team 2. One of my jobs was to act as liaison between the various commands at Little Creek and the NFSC. During that time I was assigned to Seal Team 2 which is the only team with arctic warfare capabilities, setting them apart from all others. I treasured the time I spent working with the team and their families. As liaison I was there to act as a resource for the military members and their family and I got to see firsthand the challenges these families face while serving their country.

Although this group is often mythologized, these men are a breed unto themselves. These super, Type ‘A’ personalities are born… not made. They are the Navy’s elite of the elite and they come from all walks of life to join the most exclusive fraternity in the world. During my time spent with the team, I found out they are experts at being experts. They speak multiple languages and have some advance training in nuclear engineering (in case they need to disarm a bomb!). This covert group of men can probably outperform many of their Ivy Leagues counterparts when it comes to smarts. They are highly dedicated, motivated, cocky, confident and stubborn human beings. Sound like somebody we know? Like Sam, their signature trait is toughness and as we watched in Vengeance, these men will never jeopardize the team mission or compromise lives.

From Navy Seal to NCIS Special Agent

Once Navy Seals leave the team and go to work in the civilian world, it’s hard to leave that bad-ass life behind. You won’t find them taking a job at Home Depot. They usually stay in the covert business and Sam was no different. Sam takes many of the skills and traits he honed during the time spent as a Navy Seal to his second career as an NCIS special agent. Sam Hanna always appears to be calm, no matter the situation. We know he meditates, and Callen once wondered if he even had a blood pressure. He is a rock, and the team’s moral center as well; always steadfast, always seeking the truth no matter what the cost. He’s strong and unmovable when he believes what he is doing is right. Callen may be the leader, but Sam is the one who anchors Callen and therefore the team.

His job as an undercover agent forces him to make hard choices every day that can affect his moral compass. In Betrayal, he convinces Jada that he loves her in order to bring down her brother. His moral dilemma, though difficult to reconcile, doesn’t keep him from doing his job, but we see a deep sadness in him due to this deception. But Sam does what he has to do at whatever the personal cost to his soul.

Toughness vs. Paternal Instincts?

Sam is a tough man, and can be very intimidating when he wants to be. But he can also become emotionally attached to people he feels responsible for. He befriends a Sudanese orphan after killing his father but is inconsolable when the young man is murdered. He puts himself in danger to bring the man responsible for Moe’s death to justice. Is he seeking justice or revenge? But honor is important to Sam and his choice will always be justice. He is also protective of the other members of the team. Seeing Kensi as a younger sister, he feels it’s his duty to look out for her well being even knowing what a strong and resourceful woman she is. Although it took a while to warm up to Deeks and his easy going demeanor, Sam recognized that the LAPD detective made the team stronger and more cohesive, and that made all the difference to Sam. In Patriot Acts, Sam even initiated the good-natured teasing, playfully tapping Deeks on the head and telling him he promised Hetty to keep him in line! A fun side of this tough Special Agent was revealed!

Strong Sense of Camaraderie

He is a loyal and steadfast partner that believes in the strength of working as a team. Sam is so serious about being a good partner that he would do anything for Callen. In return, Callen loves Sam and would give his life for him. They are brothers in every sense of the word. Sam is always concerned that Callen isn’t taking care of himself. He chides him to eat right, to wait for backup and not go off on his own. He loves to banter with his partner and misses him when they are apart, in fact getting grumpy and even angry if his partner goes it alone.

Family Life

Seals know that they are more likely to die with their team mates than with a family member. Seal families have to make extreme sacrifices in the name of national security and it’s usually a thankless job. Seals can be called away at a moment’s notice and without a word to their family. Sometimes they can be away for 200 days out of the year. It’s no wonder that the divorce rate among Seals first marriages is 90%. It’s a testimony to Sam that he was able to juggle the sacrifices he made to his country as a Seal while maintaining a strong family base. Even now as a NCIS agent, Sam’s family can still never know the top-secret nature of his work. They weren’t able to talk to the outside world about the parameters of his job as a Seal and they still can’t as he goes undercover for NCIS. It’s a tough life and not recommended for the faint of heart.

As a former Navy SEAL, Sam still lives by their code of honor and is very proud to have served his country. They don’t fail and they don’t quit. Sam demands this from himself and everyone around him. Like most Navy Seals he has swagger and doesn’t hesitate to brag to his partner he was once known as an international brand. Sam comes from the most exclusive fraternity on the planet, and NCIS, and his friends and family all benefit from knowing and working with this extraordinary man.

Thanks go out to Sweet Lou for helping me with this portrait of Sam Hanna and US Navy Seals. Check out her latest fan fic Going Dark on See you next time In the Bullpen!

About the author…