Kensi, Hetty and Season 5
Previously we explored the childhood influences behind Marty Deeks’ attraction to strong women and took a look at how that trait exhibited itself in his adult relationships. Today we’ll examine how it’s made him so compatible with Kensi, and how it’s played into his Season 5 relationships with both of the principal women in his life.
A Perfect Partner for Badass Blye
Deeks’ ability to embrace strength makes him quite well-suited for Kensi, as both a work and a romantic partner. Early in their work relationship, fiercely competitive Kensi seems out to prove herself to Deeks, engaging in a bit of “one-upping” in “Black Widow” as she lists all the courses she’s completed. Deeks takes it all in stride; he doesn’t disagree that she’s one-upping him, but neither does he feel the need to list off all the relevant items on his resume, secure in his “street smarts” and on-the-job training. Sure, they both have some big trust issues to work out early on, like in the next episode (“Borderline”) when Kensi is dragging him around the desert and he jumps to the conclusion that she’s gotten them lost. He quickly learns that his “Tonto” knows what she’s doing and lets her take the lead, uttering a single “Awesome” when he gets her to loosen up and joke with him, and as he realizes how truly amazing his new partner is. Such ready acceptance of her abilities is likely a relief to Kensi, even if it takes her half a season (or more) to recognize and embrace it. In Deeks’ eyes by the time he’s shot in “Personal,” she has become “Wonder Woman,” a compliment she tellingly accepts rather than rolling her eyes at his exaggerated choice of words. Kensi’s eventual belief in his faith and confidence allows her to realize that she doesn’t need to work so hard to prove herself. This in turn enables her to relax into their partnership, opening the door to friendship and more.
Deeks is regularly protective of Kensi but until “The Frozen Lake,” he never crosses the line into overprotection, something that Kensi would no doubt see as condescending and sexist. For example, Kensi may have a concussion in “Disorder” and probably should be seen by paramedics, but Deeks supports her questionable decision to chase after the bad guy (although he does sensibly insist on driving). In “The Job,” another partner might have suggested calling off the meet with King after learning about his past murders, but Deeks simply offers words of support, telling Kensi, “I’m gonna be with you every step of the way.” In “Blye, K Part 2” he offers injured Kensi a car so she can pursue the bad guy, and allows her to go off alone to do just that when she asks him to stay with her mother. He’s terribly worried but he supports her, granting her request rather than deciding that he knows what’s best for her.
Kensi’s tragic past has made her incredibly tough, but it’s also resulted in the build-up of those famous walls around her heart. Deeks’ ability to be so comfortable with her strength is one key to getting through them. Kensi would butt heads with anyone as competitive as she is (although she wouldn’t respect someone with less ability or courage). She always seeks control; it makes her feel secure. Deeks is more than happy to cede that control to her, to let her take the lead. His willingness to hand over the reins is likely another product of his painful childhood growing up with no control over the whims of his violent, alcoholic father. He may have learned to live with someone else in control, but he also fears repeating his father’s domineering behavior. Both factors could result in his comfort with a take-charge partner who doesn’t hesitate to take the lead.
With Kensi, he pokes and prods here and there to push their relationship forward, but never goes too far, following her instructions in “Personal” to “respect the pace.” For example, he never makes physical contact; Kensi is the one who punches him or swats his behind. In “Empty Quiver,” he promises to take things more seriously, which gets her to agree to lighten up. In “The Debt” he stops her from revealing too much of herself when she thinks he’s leaving NCIS; he knows that once she finds out the truth, she would regret sharing her feelings. He finally acts on his own feelings in “Descent,” saying what he really means by kissing her. But he only takes this step once Kensi has made it abundantly clear through her jealousy in “Parley,” and her words before she leaves for Iran, that she is unhappy with their status quo as partners. His patience in slowly pushing past her boundaries (even before the wise words of the ghurka in “The Frozen Lake”) allowed him to gain her complete trust and eventually to win over her heart.
Changes Underway: Deeks and the Women of Season 5
Season 5 has been a tumultuous one for all of Deeks’ relationships in the wake of both his torture and his budding romance with Kensi. The season begins with Kensi abandoning him: on the hill post-kiss in “Descent,” in Sidorov’s garage in “Ascension,” in the E.R., and apparently for a number of weeks post-torture (although she does call and drop off a cronut). We have not seen him express any anger about her behavior, but it’s certainly possible that he’d be disappointed that his Wonder Woman partner didn’t channel her fortitude into more protective behavior, or use her strength of character to provide better emotional support. Perhaps Deeks’ quickness to beat himself up when things go wrong (in “Personal” he tells Kensi “It’s one of the things I’m good at”) had him blaming himself: for pushing too far, for getting kidnapped, for not recovering quickly enough.
Given Kensi’s need for control, Deeks waits to push forward again with their relationship until “Recovery,” with the date that isn’t. He doesn’t acknowledge it as a date until Kensi forces his hand, at which point he responds by explicitly communicating what he wants. In the next episode (“The Frozen Lake”), we watch them struggle to balance their romantic relationship with their professional partnership. Deeks uncharacteristically exhibits overprotective behavior when the bad guy holds Kensi at gunpoint. This results in the most livid Kensi we have ever seen. Her punch, when viewed in the context of his childhood history, has to have been quite hurtful. He has always sought out powerful women, but here that choice appears to backfire as Kensi fails to control her anger and acts out in the same way his father would have. He may have gotten used to being hit by his dad, but experiencing something similar from the woman he loves must have, at the very least, surprised and disappointed him.
The other principal woman in his life is Hetty, and that relationship has often been strained this season, for reasons that are still unclear. In previous seasons, Hetty has acted in a very protective, almost maternal, way towards Deeks. She became his “next of kin” at the end of “Personal,” she sought to ensure his long-term employment with her job offer in “Imposters,” and she seemed to act as Densi matchmaker with her “sunshine and gunpowder” note at the end of “Parley.” This season, some of her behavior has seemed unnecessarily cruel. She frightens him in his own apartment in “Impact,” takes away his motorcycle in “Unwritten Rule,” and most importantly sends Kensi away, suddenly and with no explanation, in “The Frozen Lake.” To Deeks, any such behavior might feel particularly hurtful coming from someone who has filled a maternal role possibly better than his own mother could. Like Kensi’s punch, some of Hetty’s actions might have felt like the backfiring of his need to seek out such strong women. That either woman in whom Deeks is so emotionally invested would let him down could cause a sense of betrayal, or at least disappointment, on his part. So far he has not expressed anger at either one. That doesn’t mean he hasn’t felt it, given his reticence to ever express that emotion for fear of bringing Max/his father to the forefront. We will eventually find out whether Hetty’s motives were warranted; perhaps Deeks’ continuing faith in her will be rewarded, just as his faith in other strong women has. We know that things will change again for Densi once Kensi returns; maybe her experiencing a traumatic event will allow him an opportunity to share more feelings about his own painful experiences; those experiences should in any case position him well to be sensitive to her needs and to help her recover.
A Most Appealing Trait
Deeks’ attraction to strength is one of his finest qualities. That it has its origins in pain and suffering lends it a certain bittersweet quality for us viewers, but for the amazing women who’ve been lucky enough to have his attentions, they could only have appreciated it. Deeks’ ability to feel so comfortable with them and to celebrate their strength would have made them feel accepted in a way that they might not regularly experience. The two powerful women foremost in his life at the moment, Kensi and Hetty, have clearly enjoyed being the focus of his affections. Questions remain about the exact state of their current relationships with him, questions that will only be answered as the remainder of the season unfolds, but we’ll all no doubt be rooting for a happy ending for Deeks and his Wonder Women.
There’s still time for a little more analysis:
- How is it that Deeks, who is so driven to protect, manages to avoid being overprotective with Kensi (at least until “The Frozen Lake”)?
- Should Deeks be angry with Kensi for any of her actions this season? Do you think he’d ever express it?
- Given Deeks’ background and the way he sees Kensi’s strength, what went through his mind when she punched him in the jaw?
- What about Hetty? Do you think Deeks is putting too much faith in her decisions? Do you wish that he’d express anger towards her, or at least demand a fuller explanation?
- How does Deeks’ new occasional partner Nell fit into his views? Is he as embracing of her super smarts as he is of Kensi’s feats of physical strength? Might Nell’s recent show of grit in “War Cries” have made him feel more comfortable with her?
Tell us your opinions in the Comments! Special thanks to Sweet Lu and Densiland for their reviews of earlier drafts of this series. Their feedback is most appreciated.