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Dave Kalstein Speaks with wikiDeeks!


Dave Kalstein once told me on Twitter that if Deeks was a real person they would probably be best friends. I remember finding this statement both revealing and endearing because it told me a lot about the writer and a little bit about the man too. As a writer he gets a chance to mold this fictional character into one that he truly understands inside and out... his likes, his dislikes, his joys, his sorrows. But as a friend, it also told me the kind of company Dave likes to keep... compassionate, brave-hearted champions who love life and always give more than they take. Surely this is a composite of our hero Marty Deeks? Yes, no surprise why Dave and Deeks would be BFFs!

In last week’s feature story about Our Favorite Writers of NCIS: LA, wikiDeeks contributors touched on a few of the reasons why Kalstein scripts stand out among some of the other writers when it comes to telling the story of our favorite character. Kalstein has a unique perspective of what makes Deeks such a special part of NCIS: LA, and this prompted us to come up with a few questions that are guaranteed to get the Densi Fans out there talking, including that controversial punch in “The Frozen Lake”! Let’s see what he has to say….

Eric Christian Olsen is an impressive actor and has truly brought Marty Deeks to life. As you've watched him over the course of the series, has his skills as an actor changed how you write for his character since you first began working with him and did he surprise you in any way? 

Max-PlanB2The first thing that impressed me about ECO was his way with words, how he could take a challenging block of dialogue and make it sing. But after working with him for a few months I started to realize he's capable of more than just comedy and flirty banter. He really thrived on darker material, too. That's what inspired the episode "Plan B" and creating Deeks's undercover alias "Max Gentry". I try to write to a character's true persona - which is not always the same persona that the audience sees most of the time. Most of the time we see Deeks as the joker of the team but I find the best stories for him when I think of the brilliant, street-wise undercover cop that Hetty recruited from the LAPD. Eric nails the humor beats so perfectly that sometimes I need to remind myself to challenge him with more dramatic work. And he always rises to that challenge!

The Densi fandom has become so popular. Do they affect how you write for these characters at all?

NCISLA-Frozen-Lake-352The Densi fans are my favorite because they always provide an authentic, emotional response to what they see. Sometimes they're so smart about Kensi and Deeks that I wonder if they're in the writers room, too! They affect me most with their collective energy; the passion they bring to the show's fan base. Whenever I write any Kensi/Deeks material I know that they're watching very, very closely and expecting something magical. I try my best to meet those expectations. And I don't mind when they burn me down on Twitter every now and then! That's part of the fun.

We know the Frozen Lake metaphor came from your study of Sayoc. Can you tell us a little more about this philosophy (what does the Frozen Lake symbolize in Sayoc?) and why you decided to use it to represent Kensi and Deeks delicate relationship and the challenges they face?

NCISLA-Frozen-Lake-80Sayoc Kali is a martial art that trains the mind as much as the body. If we have ways to handle physical conflict then we must also have ways to handle non-physical conflict: the conflict within ourselves. Pamana Tuhon Christopher Sayoc uses “The Frozen Lake” as a lesson for his students to realize what their internal conflicts are and how to defeat them. Once you acknowledge there is a thing you want so badly that you’ll do anything – even ruin your relationships or yourself to get it – then you can create a plan to make sure that doesn’t happen. Since the show has established that Kensi is trained in Sayoc, it made sense to me that she’d express her feelings this way to him. She wasn’t just telling him a story, she was actually training her partner by giving him a tool to understand the emotions they have for each other. A fight is only chaotic when you lack a formula to handle it. Emotions are the same way. By telling Deeks about the Frozen Lake, Kensi did what she always does – she trusted her training. And that’s what Sayoc was created for in the first place: protecting the ones you love from harm, both physical and emotional.

Few things have stirred up stronger feelings in the Densi world than the punch Kensi threw at Deeks at the beginning of “The Frozen Lake.” Can you talk about what you think prompted Kensi’s action, and how you think Deeks felt about it? Also, do you think we’ll ever see it discussed in the future?

NCISLA-Frozen-Lake-48Kensi’s punch came from a purely emotional place. She wanted so many things in that moment… She wanted to get the bad guy, sure, but most of all she wanted things to work out with Deeks. In the heat of that moment – the violence, the danger, the new dynamic to their partnership – Kensi’s emotions simply got the best of her. Deeks should’ve taken the shot at the bad guy but he didn’t want to risk killing Kensi, even though she told him to put the job first and pull the trigger. That punch was her way of saying: “You’re screwing up our thing!” And Deeks was probably thinking at that moment: “I’m screwing up our thing!” Like any hero, Kensi Blye has her flaws. She doesn’t like to talk about emotions or open up. By punching Deeks, she failed her partner. That’s what brought on the Frozen Lake discussion. It was Kensi’s way of owning what she did and trying to find a solution. Maybe another writer will bring up that incident again in the future but it won’t be me. I feel like they resolved that issue at the end of the “The Frozen Lake.”

We would like to thank Dave for taking the time to answer our questions and adding a personal dimension to our special feature on the writers of NCIS: LA. Also, a big thanks to CBS Press for their help in facilitating this Q&A. What are some of your thoughts on each question? Leave your comments below, and let us know what you are thinking! Tonight, don’t forget to watch Dave’s final script of Season 5 — “Three Hearts.” Enjoy!


DianeDiane Volpe is a Contributing Editor at Follow her on Twitter: @phillydi

About Diane (435 Articles)
Founder, Writer and Contributing Editor of wikiDeeks. Always wanted to put together a talented team of writers and graphic designers who loved NCISLA and Marty Deeks in particular! My dream came true! Hope you enjoy what we have created!

20 Comments on Dave Kalstein Speaks with wikiDeeks!

  1. Most of the stories DK wrote I really enjoyed. I would like to know what is more important for a writer. The twitter comments from some random fans or the ratings? I guess he must have been flattered with the comments on twitter after the “Frozen Lake” but the ratings should have shocked him, and not only him (lowest ever and that even during the sweeps),
    So that is why I want to know what affects him most?
    And does he personally prefers the banter or the romance between his two favourite character?


  2. I think Dave (and CBS) were paying much more attention to the giant spike in ratings – 3 million additional viewers!!! – which “Frozen Lake”‘s momentum gave the episode that immediately followed it. And that’s how TV networks analyze ratings when they’re deciding which stories to tell.


    • Maybe, but they should start paying attention soon due to the decreasing ratings (viewers) each season since S2. S2 was the peak with 16.09 mil viewers average per episode. Now we are at 14.89 mil. That is a fact and I am sure the production crew of this show is well aware of it. As much as we all love the show, it is business after all.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. I was really happy to get the explanation of the Sayoc metaphor of the Frozen Lake. Definitely makes what Kensi was saying to Deeks, teaching Deeks, incredibly meaningful in the context of the level their relationship has now reached. Also, the author’s explanation for “the punch” really clarified for me what happened in that moment – they failed each other! I know Daniela tried to explain why Kensi punched Deeks, but she mistakenly connected it somehow to the playful punches she has often given him over the years. For me, there was absolutely no connection between the two. Nor, was it abuse. It was done in anger, frustration, and desperation, and it was a failure on Kensi’s part. But, Kalstein’s right; they did resolve both their failures by the end of the episode – Deeks by protecting Kensi with the gun in his left hand and by Kensi wanting to talk about their “thing” and asking Deeks to be patient with her. This was a great interview. It reinforced the fact that one of the many reasons I enjoy this show so much is the intelligence and depth of the writing and the excellence of the writers!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. That punch was abuse, they can dress it up how they like, Kensi thinks violence against her partner/boyfriend is okay. Even if you take the romantic relationship out it’s still not okay.

    As for their explanation it makes it worse, You can’t have Kensi beat Sam in hand to hand combat in one episode, then infantise her by saying her violence is just playful. This shows needs to stop defending that scene.


    • I don’t think the writer infantilizes Kensi or trivializes the violence in that moment at all. Nor does he hide behind the “playful” explanation. Read his response again:

      “Like any hero, Kensi Blye has her flaws. She doesn’t like to talk about emotions or open up. By punching Deeks, she failed her partner. That’s what brought on the Frozen Lake discussion. It was Kensi’s way of owning what she did and trying to find a solution.”

      If anything, he constructed a whole episode about the emotions which caused her to throw that punch in the first place. Kensi’s obviously not a sociopath! That moment was out of character for her. Why was it out of character? Because she was conflicted about feelings for her partner.

      Kalstein wasn’t defending what he wrote. He was showing a realistic, honest side of Kensi Blye…and after all the he’s done to develop her character since Season 1 (before Deeks was even introduced to the show) hasn’t Dave earned the right to do that?

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Thank you so much! I always enjoy having insight about why and how decisions are made. I am glad he appreciates our passion and that he feels such a connection to Deeks.


  6. As fans, we are all so fortunate that Dave Kalstein showed us such respect by answering these questions. His stories have always given us a deeper understanding of Deeks and Kensi and his answers today remind us that these character’s personalities come from deep within his mind and his heart. Deeks is his avatar and he has created a character we all love and root for and want to know more about. Some agree with what he does with these characters, and others don’t, but we should never doubt that he has their best interests at heart and will never do them an injustice. As he recently said…”always leave your characters better than you found them”…and that he has done every step of the way and for
    that we are eternally grateful. Thank you Dave.


  7. Very cool interview !
    It’s very nice to know a little of what’s in the writer’s head 🙂
    The punch explanation is really close to the way I saw it while watching the episode. Dave Kalstein always write awesome episode, in which we can see the person behind the “super agent”. I like it !


  8. TinkerBella // April 15, 2014 at 11:23 AM // Reply

    Love what he had to say about ECO as an actor. Too true. The explanation for the punch sounds an awful lot like backtracking to me. Somebody who knows about Sayoc might get that Kensi was acknowledging the punch with her frozen Lake story. But me and the majority of the viewers and, really, Deeks, we don’t know the history and essence of Sayoc. So that explanation is ridic to me. Kensi knows Deeks isn’t versed in it, the writers know the viewers aren’t versed in it. A simple, Deeks, I should not have punched you in the face, would have sufficed. Other than that, loved hearing his thoughts on ECO and writing for him. That was cool.


    • Thank you TinkerBella for saying exactly what I was thinking. I love what he says about ECO as an actor and Deeks as a character, and I would love to see more of the “brilliant, street-wise undercover cop that Hetty recruited from the LAPD” that some of the writers just don’t seem to get. DK is one of the few who gets that humor and competence can go hand in hand.

      But the explanation of the punch is just lame and disingenuous. No way does Kensi’s Frozen Lake metaphor qualify as an apology or taking ownership of what she did wrong (and yes, I consider the punch abusive, and the “playful punching” terribly immature). Dave, if you want to see a real apology, watch Deeks’ actions after he stops himself from torturing the cleric in Spoils of War – that’s taking ownership of what he has done. That’s a real apology.


  9. Thanks for the interview. It was informative. I liked the explanation about the punch, but I am still not fond of the Frozen Lake metaphor. I just think that people don’t talk in metaphors, especially Kensi. She is either direct or doesn’t say anything at all. In saying that, I am glad to know that Kalstein appreciates fans, even those that disagree and challenge him (as long as we do it in a thoughtful and respectful way).


  10. Reader1976 // April 17, 2014 at 7:14 AM // Reply

    What a wonderful interview. I love all the episodes written by Dave Kalstein. I find myself re-watching his episodes because of the metaphors. the intricate layers and nuances he presents in such a short space of time.

    I came away from the “frozen lake” episode with what Dave Kalstein intended. I always felt that Kensi’s punch came from a place of disappointment. After a night together, you want things to only get better. But faced with the possibility that she may lose their partnership because Deeks would be unable to get the job done…because things have changed made her react as I would expect. Now, don’t get me wrong, I do not condone violence of any sort, but given Kensi is who she is, I understood. It also gave Deeks the jump start needed to get his head back in the game. The ending was perfect. Deeks was all business, his curt response when Kensi exploded with “who takes that shot?” was “what took you so long?” I loved the ending and agree that the episode had the needed resolution at the end to allow the characters to move on. After all, it was the 1st time that Kensi acknowledged their “thing” and last Tuesday’s episode showed a confident Kensi bringing up the subject. Loved that!
    I also appreciate his comment that if Deeks was not a fictional character, they would be BFFs. Great interview😊


  11. I finally had time to sit down and read this interview. I’m glad I did – it was a very interesting interview on how Dave Kalstein writes Deeks’ character – my favorite on NCIS LA


  12. I am so glad I finally stumbled upon this post. Thank you for the interview.
    I agree with reader1976 and Michele.

    I never saw this episode as anything negative, or that particular punch as “violence”, and it surprises me that there are so many fans who did. And I am not unfamiliar with violence/abuse and I do not support it. But as a few of you have said in comments this episode, in these scenes, in this story, and after these events, it was “logical”. How anyone can not see it like this, surprises me.

    (Example: hitting someone is wrong, but when you are being attacked, then hitting your attacker is the way to go. And though they could have had Kensi yell at Deeks and get her message through in words, “kensi way” aka punch is also an option here. And I am just surprised that many fans do not separate actual violence and “emotional reactions”. Because if you watch the episode, and think, then the whole thing is about “if he had taken that shot, they would have caught the bad guys, but he chose not to” and Deeks hesitating this way could so easily get himself, Kensi, another team-member, or a witness killed, and if “throwing cold water in the face aka the punch” is what can make Deeks realize that he has to be able to make it work, then it is valid. Even if it is not the only possible option to get the message through to him.)

    And really, even if it is not said in direct words, the episode does finish the story – when in the beginning they were unable to make it work, then in the episode they searched for a way to do it, and in the end had the answers… From the shooting range, and “punch” scene to “Max/Fern meeting” and “meat locker” and ambulance scene. These scenes are so clearly all parts of the journey Densi takes in this episode – from confusion to clarity. It is just an unfortunate thing that just as they do so, there is an obstable thrown in their way only a second later.

    I may have not until reading this made these precise direct connections, but in general I saw the episode and what it meant for Densi the way the writer intended to. It was all about how to make them work – how to be able to have both – their jobs and making that work, and their personal relationship, without losing one part.

    I loved this episode, frozen lake. I also loved Three hearts. And I am so sad that so many fans here online do not see how great these episodes are. even if I am not a fan of sayoc, or anything, I enjoyed the Densi parts and journey in these episodes tremendously. I also loved the metaphors. Even if I understood the scenes in one way,. and the writer intended it the other way, I love these episodes. they were truly important turning points in the Densi relationship. I just wish more people would see how great these episodes are. For Densi.


    • I gotta say, as one of the fans who hated this ep and hated the punch, I couldn’t disagree with you more. Kensi isn’t a newbie. She’s been held hostage by a gunman before and in danger. That her first instinct because she was mad at Deeks was to punch the guy who had been tortured in the jaw is not, and never will be, regardless of what Kalstein might have intended, ok. Mind you, those of us who disagree with you are respectful to your right to see what you want to see and feel what you want to feel out of it. But don’t expect everyone to agree with you and to see it the way you do. Because, believe me, there are a ton of us who don’t and we don’t see it as a turning point in the Densi relationship in any positive way. In fact, I’ve lost a lot of interest in the show and I can’t stand Kensi anymore because of it. I keep wishing Deeks would find someone else and Frozen Lake actually ruined the show for me to the point where it doesn’t make me excited the way I used to be and I only watch now because I love ECO and DEEKS. Just saying. It’s great that you think it was a good thing. That you can enjoy it. But Frozen Lake and that horrible punch ruined the show and Kensi for a good lot of us. I, for one, will be forever sorry that horrible punch/ep was ever written and aired because it truly ruined the show for me.


      • You are correct. Kensi is not a newbie. She has been in the same type of situation before. They both have. It is part of their everyday work and life. But one thing had changed. Their relationship. That was the one variable in the formula that was different than in all the other times before.

        You can feel and think what you want and what you feel and think. The only thing i am trying to say is that you seem to “suck the joy out of enjoying the ship, the show and the story” by doing so. If this is okay for you, then that is okay. But if you do not like the characters with their “good” and “bad” sides, then perhaps it would be better not to torture yourself and stop watching. If you cannot separate things (i do not know if you would consider a martial arts training session where these two characters “beat” each other also violence, also?), and see every punch as violence…even when you look at the whole thing, then I do think it is best not to keep watching.

        If they had not spent the night together, and if he would not have hesitated taking the shot and it happened on just a random day (like a week earlier, during the previous case), and Kensi would have just randomly hit him, then that would not have made sense. All I am saying is that at that moment, after those events, it was not “gone too far”.

        It is established that Kensi is a “puncher”. If that bothers someone, then it is logical to walk away from the show. But what I would like to point out is that all these characters have demons in their past, and have had bad things happen to them in their youth. And even though Deeks has experienced quite possibly physical violence in youth, plus the torture in s4/s5, he himself is now a grown man. And he is fully capable of speaking for himself. And if he would feel Kensi is going too far, he would say so. But he has not (he did make a small comment in the s5 finale about her playful punches to his shoulder). If he is strong enough, and can separate home violence from her actions then I do not see a reason to worry.

        I know my opinion on this is different from yours, and that is fine. But I want to add one more thing: while on this case there are two sides, I hope that you agree that a person who has experienced torture, or been hit, will not remain a delicate china cup til the rest of their lives. And if they do something that is not okay (for example if a childhood victim goes and commits a crime), then they should be held responsible, and the fact that they have been hit as a kid should not mean that if they as an adult try to escape a crime scene, that you cannot stop them with even touching them with the tips of your fingers because of what happened in the past. Meaning – there are times when even former victims can and should be not treated like glass. I do not know if you would agree, but I hope you would.

        This show is typical happy-happy. And they did try to make fun of his torture in the very same episode with the fake teeth and in the next episode with jokes. If you cannot deal with that, you should not watch.

        I was merely trying to (perhaps not successfully) to show what else the scene and epsilon meant. Because it seems to me that most people here are focusing on Deeks childhood plus past torture, and not looking at the events of the episode at all, and therefore taking only part of the equation into consideration, and missing the other part of the story. My post was an unsuccessful attempt to show what else the scene meant. (I like it when there is a scene or story I do not get, and people explain the meaning to me…I was attempting to do the same)

        I am someone who can make fun on herself. I do not see everything said to me as negative. I make fun on myself. And I think it is important that we, humans, are able to do that. BY reading comments here online I feel like so many people cannot do that.

        PS. Also I would recommend watching the 6×03 Densi boat-shed scene, and listen to what Deeks says. It might be said to Kensi, and for her. But it fits so well also for him, his childhood and past, and all that. Chances are slim that it will help you feel more positive and optimistic about these characters, and show, but perhaps it will.

        Also, I am bothered with many things about the show. Including one thing that bothered many others – the Afghanistan mission, and Hettys part in it, and how that story line was “dropped” too fast. I just happen to have different opinion on this one case (punch)


  13. I love that MR Kalstein took the time to answer your questions but to be completely honest I think some fans spend too much time praising everything this show does if it concerns an actor or producer and it comes across as disingenuous.

    I have had conversations with people where they are telling me one thing and as soon as the producer or actor is around these same people are praising everything about the situation when they just told me in private they feel a different way.

    I am glad some people got on Kalstein’s case about the punch and I personally feel his answer was him saying its over move on and I don’t think a lot of people will appreciate that answer. Its one of many things about season 5 I personally feel needs to be addressed and it saddens me that no one at the show seems to feel the same way.

    Hetty’s behavior towards Deeks making him feel like he was the reason Kensi was sent to Afghanistan still hasn’t been addressed. She still lets Deeks think he was the reason Kensi’s life was put in danger and she has yet to take responsibility for her actions instead making Deeks feel he was the reason it happened. Hetty’s free pass for season 5 is never getting addressed and the producers not feeling it deserves to be addressed is sad.

    Kensi had no right to put her hands on another human being especially one she supposedly loves. If you add her head butt to Talia I think Kensi’s abusive behavior needs to be addressed in some way and we now know that will never happen.

    I am sorry this opinion will not be understood or appreciated.


  14. I absolutely love WikiDeeks. Yes, I am not afraid to admit that WikiDeeks is a guilty pleasure for me. I log on whenever I can to read and admire all the reviews, photos, artwork and especially marvel at all of the hard work and dedication from all the contributors.

    The other most important drawing card for me (other than all things Deeks😉) is the ability for all the readers and fans to express their opinions and for all to respond with their own viewpoint without fear of being “flamed” as on other sites. We are all entitled to our opinions and perspectives and reading an opposing viewpoint has frequently given me food for thought. I love that!

    Thanks to everyone who expressed their point of view! Happy New Year to all!🎉


  15. Thanks Reader!


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