Wednesday, June 12, 2024

I’ll go down with this ship…Callen & Sam

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There are always a few elements that a good TV show must have. One of these, at least for me, is a good bromance. A show that’s founded on that kind of relationship is NCIS Los Angeles.

I’d say that there wouldn’t be show if not the bromance between Callen and Sam. That and the mystery behind Callens past are what, in my opinion, made the show so successful in the first season.

While I don’t watch the show because of this relationship, I can still appreciate it and the impact it has on the series. So let’s take a closer look at the partnership between Callen and Sam.

The characters

Let’s start with the main character of the show, G. Callen. He’s the guy whose life is mostly a mystery. Although we got to know quite a lot about him over the years, there are still things we know nothing about.

He grew up bouncing around foster care. He also spent a bunch of time growing up with Hetty. Not only that, but he’s mother was a CIA agent, killed by a Romanian mafia family. He’s father worked for the KGB while also helping people get out of the Soviet Union.

Callen didn’t know what his first name was. For the longest time he used the letter G. It took us almost 10 seasons to learn that his name was Grisha. Eventually, he got to meet his father and learned that he has a sister and a nephew.

One can’t argue with the fact that his complicated family history shaped Callen into who he is. The type of operator he’s become. Over the years he worked for different federal agencies finally landing in NCIS. The experiences of his childhood certainly played into his lone wolf tendencies. Although throughout the show, he becomes more and more a part of the team.

Callen’s childhood also affected the way he forms relationships and how hard it is for him to trust others. Once the trust is given though, he’s loyal to a fault and will stop at nothing to help his friends. That loyalty often can cloud his judgment. Especially if the people closest to him are in trouble, mainly Hetty and Sam. Callen’s team became his family and his willing to sacrifice a lot for them.

He’s talent for undercover work and languages make him a skilled operator, while his hands-on experience and ability to read people make him a great leader. Callen is shown as a capable and responsible leader. He can keep his cool in most situations. Although he oftentimes comes up with crazy plans.

Callen & Sam

Then we have Sam Hanna, almost on the complete opposite side of the spectrum. If Callen is the lone wolf Sam is the ultimate team guy. An ex-Navy SEAL considered one of the best and most honorable men out there, he’s a legend.

While his life wasn’t made ta mystery like Callen’s, we still don’t know too much about it.
As the series progressed we learned that Sam had a wife and a family, and we even got to see him as a father, further, confirming how much he values family and a team.

Sam’s a skilled fighter and often takes younger agents under his wing to teach them the in and outs of the job. He’s dedication to the job and the drive to be the best at what he does make him a great agent. He’s somebody others can aspire to be and learn from.

With that being said, he sets high standards not only for himself but for everyone he associates with. That often hinders him from appreciating any skills other operators may have. He’s background as a SEAL makes him value military personnel more. If you need proof, just look how long it took for Sam to fully accept Deeks because he wasn’t military. This attitude and mindset can be the reason why Sam sometimes comes off as a snob. even if he has a heart of gold.

Still, he’s definitely the rock of the team, the one who offers perspective and guidance. Often dishing out valuable advice whilst motivating others to be the best. He’s also the one the other team members turn to for support if the going gets rough.

Their story

What’s intriguing about this ship is that we don’t know how it came to be. We can deduce that Sam and Callen probably met in the CIA. There’s not really any hint to their backstory together, though.

When we meet them, they’re already the well oiled machine we know and enjoy. Sadly we don’t get to see any growing pains or how the relationship and trust between these two was built. It’s like we’re peeking in on a great (work)marriage while completely missing the beginnings. Which are often the most interesting aspects of a relationship.

Callen & Sam bromance

Callen and Sam are so in sync with each other that they often don’t have to talk. They can communicate with body language or a look.

During the show, we can see how important this bond is. Both characters are there for their partners if they face any hardships. A great example of that is the murder of Sam’s wife Michelle. Callen not only helps Sam to get justice but also offers support and strength.

Something that’s also unique for this bromance is the fun banter and bickering—almost as if they’re an old married couple. Which given how long they’ve work together, they are. Also, Sam being a mother hen is hilarious.

It’s clear that this partnership was build on a strong foundation. One of trust and understanding.

Even though Callen and Sam seem very different they share a lot of the same values and principles. Both care a great deal about their family and friends. Both want to help and protect people.

They became each other’s family and learned a great deal from each other. Especially Callen who thanks to Sam started appreciating the value of a team. He finally learned that he doesn’t need to be a lone wolf.

Their flaws

Personal character flaws aside this partnership has one major flaw: it’s gone stagnant. It’s a little to stable for my liking. While that can be a great thing, in this particular case I completely stopped caring what happens. I’m not invested in this relationship anymore.

I understand that a bromance can’t face the same obstacles or challenges as a romantic paring but still. It’s just too perfect. It’s not realistic that Sam and Callen never have any serious disagreements and are always on the same side.

Even when the producers tried rocking the boat a little, mainly with Sam taking a leave of absence after Michelle’s death, it didn’t do much.

It’s almost as if Callen and Sam reached the final stage of their partnership before the show even began. There’s no room to grow or change the pace or do anything with this bromace. Often the individual arcs overshadow the partnership, making you completely forget about the relationship because they’re more interesting than any stories developed for the partners together.

Why I ship them

There are 3 main reasons why I still enjoy this partnership.

First, the quips and old married couple vibes, which are a great way of breaking tensions or heavy topics.

Second while I think it’s gone a little stagnant story wise, I still appreciate how stable and reliable the partnership between Callen and Sam is. How they can always count on each other.

Third, they’re equals. Although I’ve written about BroTP’s before, this is the first where both characters are equals. That allows the show to play with different dynamics and topics.

While Callen and Sam may not be my favorite BroTP or even the reason I watch NCIS Los Angeles, I still appreciate their bromance and what it brings to the show. Furthermore, I think it’s become a staple and I can’t imagine the show without their banter. It was definitely one of the main reasons why the show became successful.

With all that being said, I hope that the producers shake things up soon, so I can get more invested in this bromance again.

Images courtesy of CBS

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