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Review: NCISLA “Between the Lines” (S5E17)


Don’t worry good readers, PhillyDi will be back soon with her amazing reviews. In the meantime, just consider me “sort of a temp.”

It’s no secret that fans are waiting impatiently for the looming showdown in Afghanistan, something we’ve been hearing about since the season began. Given the level of distraction generated from obsessing about Densi’s fate for so long, this episode was a solid effort to keep us entertained, and to keep the impending anxiety at bay a little while longer. Joseph C. Wilson, a writer capable of epic Deeks episodes like Plan B and Personal, as well as completely Deeks-free ones like The Gold Standard, gave us some fine Deeks moments with a nice range of emotion, from silly to serious, from frustrated to worried. But before we focus on Deeks, let’s cover the plot.

The Story This Week

We open with the assassination of an ATF agent named Kevin Clark. He was part of a joint task force investigating Navy sailors running into trouble while on shore leave, engaging in criminal activity and becoming easy targets for blackmail. The team follows leads involving Japanese yakuza, a gang informant, and a career criminal/“street level independent contractor.” The investigation ends with Sam going undercover as a sailor out for a good time. When his cover is blown, Deeks and Callen launch a successful rescue operation that also keeps scores of other undercover agents safe and brings down the ATF agent on the take. But enough about plot. For me it’s all about the characters…

The Three Amigos

Since Kensi’s departure, Deeks has been working more closely with Sam and Callen. And while the teasing hasn’t slowed, its tone has changed. You can sense their fondness for him now, and Deeks feels it too. The post-credit opening has Sam and Callen needling him about missing Kensi and not being “on the same page” with them during an op. Deeks responds by describing them as his two older brothers. We’ve all wanted to see this type of relationship between Deeks and the two older men, but might this be the first time any of them have actually used the word “brother?” It makes me unbelievably happy for Deeks that he’s gained such a feeling of family (even if I’m not sure that Callen has done much to earn the moniker). As they walk out of the armory, Deeks looks genuinely frustrated, raising his arms above his head and cursing, just like a little brother whose big brothers won’t let him win an argument.

Throughout the episode, there is quite a lot of discussion about Deeks’ job satisfaction. The job references actually started in the previous episode (“Fish Out of Water”), when Sam referred to him as a federal agent, and Talia the DEA agent encouraged him to check out the DEA as a potential employer. Here Deeks complains repeatedly about having multiple cases in a day, with Sam reminding him that he’s not a real agent, Callen observing that Deeks doesn’t seem to like his job, and Sam offering that he might not be “cut out for the job.” The less inspired final scene also contains similar references to his “employment status.” It feels like the guys are trying to do all they can to hint at and pressure Deeks to finally become an agent, an official part of the team (and the family). It’s as if they’ve fully accepted him and want to make it official. Or maybe that’s just my wishful thinking?

The Partner Parade

ATF Agent Stone gives Deeks a key reason for Agent Clark’s murder: “Clark was working without a partner when he should have been.” In Kensi’s absence, Deeks has rarely worked solo, instead moving through an apparently endless series of temporary partners. This episode was no different, as he bonds with his latest partner, Agent Bauer, joking about his “casual Tuesday” undercover biker outfit. When they finally need to work together, they do so effortlessly, creating a (very funny) distraction, taking down the guards, and arresting the main bad guy.

Deeks also gets to partner with Callen to back up Sam, even sharing a wee bit of banter: when Callen warns him about talking to strangers, he replies with a sarcastic “Thanks, Dad.” They too work well together, connecting the clues to realize that Sam may have walked into a trap, with Deeks stressing their need to be prepared to come to Sam’s rescue. They time the diversion perfectly, working in sync and definitely “on the same page.” But when has Deeks ever not worked in sync with his teammates when things turn serious?

Finally, Deeks is worried about his real partner. I loved the emotions that played out on his face as he hesitated about whether to ask Nell about Kensi. Nell seemed at a loss for words for how to reassure him: is she as worried as he is? “I imagine she’s safe… I mean, she’s a big girl,” are not exactly convincing clichés. To his credit, Deeks stayed professional and focused on his job despite his apprehension.

Kensi Goes AWOL

Speaking of Kensi, the writers and show runners have done an impressive job handling Daniela Ruah’s maternity leave so creatively. They’ve managed to include her in every episode, even if just barely so. To paraphrase Agent Stone, Kensi too has been working without a partner when she should have been, and now she’s disappeared from the base. She seems to be on her own personal mission, we assume to find out what her ex-fiancé is up to and why she’s been ordered to kill him. She’s walked straight into the Wolf’s den, taking an unbelievable risk. I don’t think Deeks would approve! Not since the lasers of “Deliverance” has Kensi looks as scared as she does when she climbs down off her horse and into the custody of the bad guys, and rightfully so. I wonder if her completely unprofessional behavior, not to mention utter failure to complete her mission (at least so far) will carry any professional repercussions.

Memorable Moments

  • Was it just me, or did Agent Clark bear an odd resemblance to Deeks, complete with blond hair, beard, and plaid shirt?
  • Might Deeks’ offer of “bottomless pitchers at O’Malleys” mean that he, Sam and Callen have been spending some regular off-hours time together?
  • I liked the slightly random use of parkour when Sam and Callen chased down the informant.  It reminded me of Callen’s opening dream sequence in “Human Traffic.”
  • Deeks just doesn’t seem to be able to stay cleaned up. When he’s not playing a janitor or a homeless man, he’s in (or on top of) a dumpster. This was the third time I can think of, the others being “The Watchers” and “Purity.”
  • Deeks is always funny when faking an accident, just as he was in “The Job” when he pretended his soccer career had been ruined. I bet he was a little bitter seeing Agent Bauer getting to ride his motorcycle though (I know I was).
  • Callen (and COD) did a nice job on the ledge, similar (but not quite 10-stories-up-impressive) to Deeks/ECO in “The Debt.”
  • When Sam got tasered, my mind immediately went to seeing him electrocuted in Descent. Not a happy memory.
  • Nice job Sam did faking out the bad guy by taking the bullets out of his gun. Looks like I’m not the only Die Hard fan out there.

Classic Deeks

Deeks: You know what? I’ve always wondered what it would be like to have two older brothers… That I hated. Now I know… Isn’t there some sort of agent union mandate that prohibits like multiple cases without like a massage in between?
Sam: “Yeah, but it doesn’t matter, you’re not an agent.”
Deeks: I just keep opening the doors, you just keep walking through ‘em.

Classic Densi?

I’ve got nothing… Except, I have to believe that when Deeks was sitting down at his desk as everyone else was getting up to leave, he was planning to try to text Kensi again. I’m glad we didn’t see it though- it’s way too sad to think about.

Buckle up everyone, it’s going to be a crazy few weeks.


Title: “Between the Lines”
Writers: Joseph C. Wilson
Director: Dennis Smith
Original Air Date: March 18, 2014

About Karen (287 Articles)
wikiDeeks Writer & Assistant Editor. I never wrote for fun before... until my ECO-obsession. Now I love to analyze any and all aspects of the best character on television.

12 Comments on Review: NCISLA “Between the Lines” (S5E17)

  1. Anther strong review. I have said this for a while now that the only good thing about kens assignment is the fact that Deeks/Sam/Callen have been able to bond.

    As for the “not having a partner” it could also be a reference to Kensi if you think about it. Deeks made mention to Nate about Kensi having a whole team and trusting any of them. So this could have been a reminder that Kensi is very much alone. Kensi is in such a state of shock over the fact that she saw Jack. A man that she loved very deeply enough to say yes to marriage.

    Deeks worry over Kensi was well played. He knows something is wrong either he is trying not to be to over emotional about it or maybe he feels like he’s over reacting. But things are getting ready to go south that is for sure.

    Buckle up everyone it’s about to get rough!


  2. a great summary of the episode. so glad deeks has found his family. i hope callen can do the same and get some closure on his life but also find a sense of belonging like he feels with the teamm. they all love hetty as a mother especially callen


  3. Dr. Brenda // March 21, 2014 at 7:15 AM // Reply

    Great summary again!
    I did enjoy the opening sequence. Good by-product of no Kensi – Deeks becoming one of the guys.
    I also like how they used that segment then to foreshadow Sam/Deeks work with agent Stone. When Sam told G to put down his gun he said “He can’t shoot an agent.” After Stone insisted he could and would, Sam gave G a look and nodded. I noticed that more the second time I watched it and realized that was Sam cluing G in to not worry about the gun. G understood the intent while Stone reacted to the words themselves.

    It’s significant to me because of my experience in situations where a patient has taken a very significant turn for the worse and I have needed to alert co-workers of the need to act NOW in front of the patient/family without causing panic in them. That sort of scene of utter calm and co-ordination in the midst of a crisis is much more realistic to my own experience than the faux pandemonium that is frequently portrayed in medical shows especially. That speaks to me of a high level of insight on the part of the writers regarding how these situations go and excellent technical advising. Undoubtedly there are times where they take dramatic license with aspects of technology, etc. and that’s certainly appropriate for a drama. However, I view scenes such as this as a very respectful portrayal of the multiple layers of skill required by people working in high intensity occupations such as this.


  4. Great review, I love coming to see these and read peoples thoughts on the episodes. Its interesting how some people can see things slightly different from the same scenes. The next few weeks sure are going to be a roller coaster ride. I am not going to comment on Kensi. That topic has divided people.

    Just a note though, Deeks called Callen “Brother” last week in A Fish Out of Water, after he shot the would be bomber in the car park. The brotherhood is growing stronger which I love.


  5. Cuttestnik // March 21, 2014 at 8:02 AM // Reply

    Another great episode. I loved it..grt opening. I love deeks banter with anyone because he is damn good at it(better than anyone) & with sam & callen it was amazing. They are the terrific trio..
    Poor deeks without kensi..the look he gave when agent stone told him the reason behind clarks death.. I really miss densi together..
    I’m personally disaapointed by kensi’s capture..that was a bad decission.. & so are going to be consequences..
    Can’t deeks just sign those damn papers..plz I want him to be an agent..& so happy that he has finally found his family inhis team.. I’m just worried abt what will happen to deeks when he will find out abt kensi..
    I was really waiting for the review & when I saw ur name..i was quite dissappointment..but after reading it..i can say u have done a great job.. Really well written dear.


  6. Super job, KP…being a temp is “a good thing” and this review shows it.

    That opening scene is now one of my favorites and your comment about the end of that bit was right on, with the older brothers taking it to the kid. I thought Callen’s comment in the car about not speaking to strangers reinforced the kid brother vibe. During the op it seemed as if Callen was trying to be a teacher to him, a marked difference from earlier in the season when he was always critical of Deeks’ actions and comments. One of the things that stood out to me was how concerned Deeks was about Sam being in danger. It showed just how connected the two men are now after their shared experience with Siderov.

    Loved Deeks dumpster dive and the overly dramatic injured motorist routine, with him verbalizing just when he was going to pass out so Callen would know when to slide across that live electrical wire. That was followed by a too quick fight scene that reminded me of the alley scene in Romania. Loved the flying limbs and flying hair.

    I was literally talking to the television when Kensi rode out alone to make contact with Jack…no, no, no!!! That was just really stupid and I could hear Deeks in the back of my head saying..”Seriously?” I know she gets captured, but did they have to write it this way? Not happy with that scenario, but if I remember correctly, Shane Brennan wrote all of Kensi’s scenes in Afghanistan so this can’t be laid at Joey Wilson’s feet, not that that makes me feel any better, but it might make him feel better. Deeks is gonna be pissed when he finds out what she did.


  7. He has worried about her and missed her since she left. Poor deeks. I’m so afraif of jackproblem. Just hope they won’t let “theirthing” like tiva. That will be terrible if SB do that.


  8. Karen, well done & thanks for filling in! Agree with many of the previous sentiments. The guys’ banter threaded throughout the episode was reassuring. This is the first time I felt like the guys had finally and genuinely warmed up to Deeks’ and were making a voluntary effort to envelope him into their effort. The tone was just right in them treating him like an (annoying) little brother without being condescending. (And it doesn’t even need to be said: ECO has simply perfected the art of banter.)

    The first third of the show I was thinking, “Ok – I got it….” I felt like I was drowning in the themes of 1) Partnerless and 2) Agent Status. For us “fierce fans” it might have been a bit much. For the casual viewer, I can see the need. (One of my university students came in and asked, “What was that girl doing in that cave?!” Oh girl, let me tell you what she was doing in that cave!) Yes, we get it. Kensi doesn’t have a partner, trusts no one over there, and is half a world away. This can only result in bad things for her, Deeks, and the mission. We’ve had nearly 4 months of watching and pondering this. We’ve got it. While I was quite disappointed in this episode, I can see how some seeds from it needed to be planted, again, especially for the casual viewer.

    As for the Agent Status, I for one, am glad it’s being brought to the forefront. Kinda. We have two ends of the spectrum for Deeks: become an official agent or leave NCIS. Yep, it’s feeling like this may very well (probably, quite likely) be an issue ramping up for the finale. Yet which will it be? Will Deeks finally feel like a full member of the team, no longer associate himself as a “cop” (or less so), be driven to be a permanent fixture for Kensi, or something else altogether? Or could another dramatic turn cause him to turn his back on all of it from a trigger of his own PTSD, the same issue impacting/drastically changing Kensi, something Kensi does or says that changes Deeks entire perception of her, or again, something else entirely?

    Deeks has been sitting on the fence about becoming an agent for a very long time, so I feel like the writers might need to drive him away, before completely and concretely having him officially join the team. It makes for deeper and more satisfying storytelling and provides more understanding of who that character inherently is, as well as demonstrates his growth over time.

    I very much appreciate that they had Kensi voluntarily get captured. As I wrote in the Surf Log, this reminds us of how Kensi is innately a risk-taker (at least as an agent). To take that action, tell/hint to no one, and go in fully (or quite minimally) unarmed, is a huge tell that she’s not thinking clearly – and not thinking with her head. All of that ties into not having a partner, especially not her partner who would have protected her (or helped her to protect herself). This is going to go south – fast and hard. While it will be painful, I can’t wait to see how far the writers are going to take Kensi down this professionally dangerous and personally damaging road, and equally how Daniela will certainly apply her brilliant acting skills to make the viewers feel like we are experiencing her emotional journey. On that same note, my anticipation is reaching a peak about how the writers will have Deeks react to her disappearance and how ECO will portray such depth of emotion, whatever it may be.


  9. P.S. If Deeks was freaking out over Sam not checking in and action being taken only after Sam missing his third check-in, his reaction to Kensi’s disappearance will be…. Yikes.


    • Totally agree. I’m kinda glad I have a week to prepare myself for his reaction. Last night ep (Zero Days) drained me. I love Deeks and how he always has everyone 6 no matter what. We saw that in Human Traffic when he tackled that guy from shooting Sam. Again in Personal when he raised out of his hospital bed to save Kensi. I think Deeks reaction will be emotional and heart breaking. He’ll walk through fire to save her that is for sure.


  10. Natalia Simon // March 22, 2014 at 8:12 AM // Reply

    Very good comments as always. I agree that Kensi is not thinking clearly and I scare their future actions or reactions to the imminent end of the events between her, Jack and the team.
    And also I´m waiting for Deek´s reaction upon learning of her disappearance, ECO surely make us suffer.
    And finally, what is “the thing” that will complicate the relationship between the partners ?? Deeks will kill Jack to protect her??

    If only I could write in Spanish, my comments would be longer and more clear. Bye friends…..


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